Egyptian police angered by the kidnapping of seven colleagues by Islamist gunmen kept a crossing into the Gaza Strip closed again on Saturday, stranding hundreds of Palestinian travellers, witnesses said.
The protest began Friday when police strung barbed wire across the Rafah border post and chained up the gates, local residents said, a day after the abductions.
"We will not open the crossing until the kidnapped soldiers are freed and the interior minister arrives to listen to our demands so that these attacks on us are not repeated," said one of the protesting policemen Saturday.
On Thursday, seven Egyptian security personnel, including one member of the armed forces, four port security officers, and two state security officers, were kidnapped by unknown assailants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
A security source has revealed that the kidnappers of seven Egyptian security personnel in Sinai have demanded the release of Islamist militants detained for almost two years.
The militants, who allegedly belong to the Tawhid wal-Jihad group, were convicted of killing five security officers and one civilian during a string of attacks in June/July 2011 on an Al-Arish city police station and a North Sinai branch of the Bank of Alexandria. Twenty-five individuals were charged in the case.
The security source, who asked not to be named, added that the kidnappers had accused Egyptian security forces of torturing one of the detained men.
The policemen were abducted at a checkpoint near the 'Green Valley' region on the Rafah-Arish road in North Sinai, Reuters reported.
Gaza-based Palestinian resistance faction Hamas has declared plans to tighten border security and has offered to help Egyptian security forces find and arrest the kidnappers.
A number of tourists have been kidnapped in Sinai this year, after which abductors usually demand the release of detained colleagues in return for the tourists' release.
Thursday's kidnapping, however, represents the first time for security personnel to be abducted by Sinai-based militants.
The restive Egypt-Gaza border region has witnessed an upswing in violence over the course of the past few months, with frequent clashes between security forces and militants.