2 Jul 2015

NZDF says personnel in Sinai are safe

8:53 pm on 2 July 2015

The Defence Force says all 27 New Zealand military personnel in the Sinai are safe after last night's deadly attacks by Islamic State fighters.

At least 70 combatants and civilians were killed in the co-ordinated assault on several military checkpoints in northern Egypt, where the New Zealand contingent is stationed as part of a multinational force of observers.

A Defence Force spokesperson said the New Zealanders, who are part of the truce-monitoring force set up to keep the peace between Egypt and Israel, were well trained in the event of any threat and appropriate security measure are in place.

A professor of Strategy Studies at Victoria University, Robert Ayson, said the mission was set up 30 years ago to keep peace between sovereign states, and it was not equipped to deal with the rise of transnational terrorists like Islamic State.

"If there's really serious deterioration and a situation occurs on the peninsula will that make the MFO less and less viable?

"That I think is the connection, it's not clear that the MFO can really have too much of a role in dealing with this - this is really in a sense an internal struggle."

Professor Ayson said it was unlikely the international forces would be targeted directly by the jihadists but their position could be vulnerable if Egypt loses control.

Defence Minster Gerry Brownlee was unavailable for comment.