ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The Egyptian military moved in Friday to protect international peacekeepers including New Mexicans at a base attacked by gunmen, a top officer of the New Mexico National Guard has told KRQE News 13.
Several dozen New Mexicans are among the peacekeepers stationed at el Gorah, a base near the Egypt-Israel border about 20 miles from the Mediterranean Sea.
"We received reports that the Northern Camp in Sinai Peninsula of Egypt was attacked by armed aggressors breaching the security containment area," New Mexico National Guard Chief of Staff Col. Tim Paul told News 13 Friday evening. "The situation has settled somewhat now.
"The Egyptian military has responded. They are responsible for that area and they have stopped this protest."
The Times of Israel reported 50 tanks and armored vehicles had been sent to the scene.
"The attackers were described as Bedouin jihadists, possibly affiliated with Al-Qaeda," the newspaper reported "First reports said Al-Qaeda flags were seen flying at the base after the attack."
The attackers arrived in about 50 vehicles, toppled two observation towers and wounded four officers, three of them believed to be from Colombia, the Times reported.
No U.S. Troops were reported injured.
"It's horrible for families; that's the hardest part," Paul continued. "The good news is they'll all be fine."
They, along with hundreds of other New Mexico National Guard troops in the Multinational Force and Observers , are there to keep the peace between Israel and Egypt under a 31-year-old treaty.
The troops faced only minor flare-ups until Friday when the heavily armed militants forced their way through a security perimeter in an attack that did some physical damage and wounded three people working at the base.
Previous coverage 8:25 p.m. Sept. 14:
Armed militants stormed a multinational military base in Egypt Friday where New Mexico National Guardsmen serve as part of the force.
Reports indicated no New Mexicans were among the handful of people reported injured, according to a statement released by the governor's office.
According to the statement, the protestors were attempting to force their way into the headquarters of the Multinational Force and Observers in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Initial reports indicated the assault was beaten back but not before "a few" coalition troops from other nations were injured.
The New Mexicans role in the battle is not yet known.
It also is not yet clear whether the attack is part of the ongoing protests over an anti-Muslim film produced in the United States or were staged by extremists groups taking advantage of the turmoil.
Similar questions are yet to be resolved in the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Tunisia, which claimed four U.S. lives including that of Ambassador Chris Stevens .
Forty-seven New Mexico Guardsmen from the Springer-based 615th Combat Support Battalion deployed in July to the Sinai base. There they were reflagged as the 1st U.S. Army Support Battalion.
The 11-national MFO was established as part of a 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel to help secure the Sinai, which separates the two countries.
Late Friday afternoon the Los Angeles Times reported gunmen attacked one side of the peacekeepers' building in the el Gorah region of northeastern Sinai near the Israeli border. The Times cited an official news agency as saying the attackers removed barbed wire to gain access, wounded three people working at the base, set fire to a vehicle and seized weapons and walkie-talkies from MFO troops.
Egypt's state-run media attributed the assault to protests over the anti-Muslim video, but an Israeli newspaper said the attackers were believed to be militants associated with Salafi, a branch of Islam, acting independently of the turmoil roiling some parts of the Muslim world, the Times reported.
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