Kidnappers free Egypt security officers

2013-05-22 10:21
Egyptian border policemen stage a sit in behind locked gates, in protest of the kidnapping of their colleagues in northern Sinai, at the Rafah, Sinai, border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza strip. (AP)

Egyptian border policemen stage a sit in behind locked gates, in protest of the kidnapping of their colleagues in northern Sinai, at the Rafah, Sinai, border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza strip. (AP)

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Cairo - Kidnappers on Wednesday released three Egyptian policemen and four soldiers captured last week in the Sinai peninsula, the army said.

"The seven security personnel have been released by their kidnappers in Sinai," military spokesperson Ahmed Aly said in a statement carried by the official MENA agency.

"The seven are on their way to Cairo following their release, which came as a result of efforts by Egyptian military intelligence in coordination with tribal leaders in Sinai," Aly said.

Egyptian troops and policemen had begun sweeps of north Sinai on Tuesday.

The kidnappers were heavily armed with SAM anti-aircraft missiles and heavy machineguns, interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim said on Tuesday.

He said there were no negotiations with the kidnappers, who were demanding the release of jailed Bedouin militants, but tribal leaders were working to persuade the gunmen to release the hostages.

Witnesses in Sinai spoke of increased military movement in the peninsula on Tuesday, as a military helicopter circled above.

Authorities had also raised the state of alert in hospitals and emergency services ahead of a possible showdown with the kidnappers.

Tension 

The capture of the security personnel piled pressure on Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, whose 11-month rule has been marked by violent clashes, political turmoil and a devastating economic crisis.

Tension has been running high in the lawless peninsula since the kidnapping which was followed by two attacks on or near police camps in north Sinai.

On Monday, assailants fired heavy weapons for 25 minutes at a police camp in Al-Ahrash, followed later in the day by another attack on the Oja border crossing with Israel, which is also close to a police camp.

Attacks on police and soldiers in the sparsely populated peninsula have surged since an uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, as have cross-border attacks on Israel.

In August 2012, suspected Islamist gunmen killed 16 Egyptian soldiers near Israel's border and commandeered an armoured vehicle into Israel, where they were stopped by a helicopter strike.

Read more on:    mohammed morsi  |  egypt  |  north africa
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