Troops have begun searching a number of desert villages in the Sinai Peninsula in their hunt for seven members of the security forces abducted last week, an eyewitness told Al-Ahram Arabic news website on Monday night.
“We don't expect them to be found in Al-Qouraey [one of the targetted villages, located 20km south of Arish] because it is in an exposed location,” the eyewitness, who claimed to be a member of the Sawarka tribe, added via an online message.
The eyewitness also said he had seen helicopters patrolling south and southwest of Rafah.
Seven Egyptian security personnel, a conscript of the armed forces and six police personnel, have been held by unidentified kidnappers in the Sinai Peninsula since Thursday.
It is the first time Egyptian security personnel have been abducted by Sinai-based militants.
According to the eyewitness, it is the first time since the January 25 Revolution that police and intelligence work has taken place in the remote desert areas of North Sinai.
“They (police and intelligence officers) are forming checkpoints with the army,” the eyewitness said.
On Sunday, President Morsi said "all options" remained open to secure the release of the kidnapped security personnel, stressing that Egypt would "not be blackmailed" by the captors.
Egyptian police have been the target of several attacks by Sinai Bedouins over the past two years.
People in Sinai have often complained of neglect and marginalisation by the authorities, especially after the revolution, and some have sought to take revenge against the security forces after years of heavy-handed security policies.