Security sources in Cairo said a gunbattle between the beduin and police in the same area on Tuesday had wounded one policeman and killed another resisting capture. 

 

The Interior Ministry added that security forces and the beduin group had been fighting since Tuesday.

 

"They have large quantities of automatic weapons and ammunition," a ministry spokesman added. "They were also armed with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars."

 

Police suspect the armed group to be protecting two men, Muhammad Ahmad Salih Fulayfil and Hamad Jumaa, who have been linked to a bombing that killed at least 34 people in three bombings on 7 October at Taba.

 

But the beduin may also be sheltering upto three more wanted suspects, security sources added.

 

Cairo says that Israelis were the targets, but the victims included Egyptians, Russians and Italians.

   

No al-Qaida link

 

The government has said the bombers are not part of a wider Islamist network or linked to al-Qaida.

   

And police said in October they had arrested five men, all Sinai beduin, as accomplices in the bombings. Most of them were from the north coast town of al-Arish, near the Israeli border.

   

Police had concentrated their investigations in the area but human rights groups say that some of the 2500 med detained for questioning have been subjected to torture. The authorities deny the allegation.