Egyptian soldiers take position on a sand dune during an operation in the Sinai peninsula in August 2012 (Photo: AFP)
Seven members of the Egyptian security forces were kidnapped by unknown assailants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula early on Thursday.
According to state news agency MENA, a conscript of the armed forces and six police personnel were abducted.
They were abducted at a checkpoint near the Green Valley – on a road connecting Rafah and Arish – in North Sinai, Reuters reported.
The head of security in North Sinai, Sameeh Beshady, denied reports that one of the seven kidnapped officers had been released.
Several news sources, including Turkish-based news agency Anadolu and Sky News, reported that one of the officers had been released and that another would be released within hours to show "good intentions."
Beshady said the officer in question, Abdel-Aziz Mohamed, was not one of the kidnapped officers, but was on his way home from a holiday.
Anadolu also reported that the kidnappers are trying to force the authorities to release their own men who are in jail on criminal charges.
An official from the security forces said joint attempts by military intelligence, general intelligence as well as the national and general security agencies in North Sinai were underway to track down the perpetrators.
Bedouin figures have also helped to facilitate the release process.
Security has been tightened up along the Egypt-Gaza border to prevent the officers being taken out of the country, Al-Ahram Arabic News website reported.
Egyptian authorities have been clamping down on Islamist militants in the peninsula against the backdrop of repeated attacks on security officers as well as on the pipeline that exports gas to Israel and Jordan.
Last August, 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed in an attack by gunmen in Rafah near the Egypt-Gaza border. Earlier in May, gunmen shot dead a man who was selling alcohol in the peninsula in an attack security officials said was likely carried out by Islamist militants.