Seven Sudanese arrested trying to sneak into Israel to seek asylum

Seven Sudanese, including a 1-year-old girl, were arrested trying to sneak into Israel from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to seek asylum Friday.

Capt. Mohammed Badr, a local police officer, said the individuals were captured in northern Sinai at dawn in two separate groups as they attempted to climb over the barbed wire that marks Egypt's border with the Jewish state.

The first group, all from Sudan's troubled Darfur region, included Abdelmegeed Abbas and his wife Raheb el-Tayeb, both 27 years old, and their 1-year-old baby girl. Badr said the Sudanese family was also accompanied by an 8-year-old girl who was not related to them.

During interrogation by local police, Abbas said they used to live in Cairo, but paid a Bedouin man US$500 (EUR371) each to help them sneak into Israel, where they hoped to find political asylum, Badr reported.

Egyptian authorities have long accused Sinai inhabitants of smuggling weapons, drugs and people across the border into Israel and the Gaza Strip. The peninsula is inhabited by approximately 10 semi-nomadic Bedouin tribes who are known for their knowledge of the area's desert and mountain ranges.

Badr said the second group, which was captured a few kilometers away from the first, included two Sudanese men, Ibraheem Seleman Adam, 29, and Abdelkareem Abdullah Moussa, 67, who were originally from western Sudan, but had also been living in Egypt.

Many Sudanese refugees find live difficult in Egypt, a country that struggles to provide jobs and social services for its own citizens. Egyptian riot police violently cleared a refugee encampment in central Cairo in 2005, killing almost 30 people.

Sudan has seen an exodus of refugees in the past several years as a result of fighting in the western region of Darfur between ethnic African rebels and the pro-government janjaweed militia. Since the conflict began in 2003, more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million chased from their homes.

The Sudanese Embassy in Cairo had been informed of Friday's arrests, said Badr, who added that the detainees were being held in police custody in the northern Sinai town of El Arish.

Sudanese officials were not immediately available for comment.