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Salafist leader offers to negotiate with Sinai kidnappers

Leader of Salafist Call in Alexandria says negotiated settlement to kidnap crisis is still possible, raises concerns over military buildup in Sinai Peninsula

Ahram Online , Tuesday 21 May 2013
Abdel Moneim El Shahat (Snap shot - Youtube video)
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A delegation from Salafist Call – Egypt's most powerful Salafist group – is seeking to communicate with the kidnappers of seven security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula, the group's leader said on Tuesday.

Salafist Call (Al-Daawa Al-Salafiya) is willing to negotiate with the kidnappers via mediators from Bedouin tribes, Abdel-Moneim El-Shahat, who is based in Alexandria, told Turkish news agency Anadolu.

"I believe the kidnappers think they have reached a point of no-return, but we [Salafist Call] have sent them a message stating there is still an opportunity [for negotiations], as was mentioned by the presidency," El-Shahat explained.  

The best solution would be for the kidnappers to release the captives, El-Shahat added.

El-Shahat also expressed concern about the military buildup in the peninsula. Egyptian troops have started combing towns and villages in the region which, according to El-Shahat, could provoke anger among the local Bedouin population.

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.

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.

Residents of 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.

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