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Egypt presidency vows 'decisive' response to Sinai kidnappings

Presidential spokesman asserts kidnapped Egyptian soldiers will be released 'soon,' stresses President Morsi's desire for avoidance of bloodshed

Ahram Online, Monday 20 May 2013
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Presidential spokesman Omar Amer (Photo: Official Facebook page for presidential spokesman)

Egyptian presidential spokesman Omar Amer on Monday asserted that Egypt would deal "decisively" with the recent kidnapping of seven Egyptian security officials in the Sinai Peninsula.

He went on to describe current Egyptian military deployments in the restive peninsula as "standard, considering the current situation."

Early Monday, the Egyptian army sent dozens of armoured vehicles and personnel carriers across the Suez Canal into North Sinai.

The move follows the kidnapping last Thursday of seven Egyptian security officers by unidentified culprits.

At a Monday press conference, Amer predicted that the captured soldiers would be released "soon." He added that Egypt's presidency was keen to prevent bloodshed when securing the soldiers' release.

Amer described a video of the seven kidnapped soldiers that recently appeared online as "unacceptable," adding that Egypt's response would be "decisive" so as to ensure that the "prestige of the state is protected."

The kidnapped security personnel include one member of the armed forces, four port security officers and two state security officers.

The video, which appeared online on Sunday, showed seven blindfolded men, hands on their heads, giving their names and military ranks. They called on President Mohamed Morsi to intervene to secure their release.

Amer reiterated the presidency's refusal to negotiate with the kidnappers.

He also denied recent unofficial reports of a dispute between the presidency and military leadership over how to deal with the crisis.

"The president is the supreme head of the armed forces," he said. "There is no conflict between the presidency and the institutions of the state. They share one vision."

Amer also referred to development projects in the Sinai Peninsula, describing them as a "state priority" that "would soon be realised."

Meanwhile, for the fourth consecutive day, security forces blocked both the Rafah and El-Ouga border crossings (with Gaza and Israel, respectively) to demand their colleagues' swift release.

On Monday, conscripts from Egypt's Central Security Forces launched a strike in five North Sinai police stations.

Amer said that the presidency was dealing with the strike "delicately," asserting that the conscripts' action was "understandable."

The kidnappers, meanwhile, have demanded the release of Islamist militants detained for almost two years, a security source said.

The militants, who allegedly belong to the Islamist Tawhid Wal-Jihad group, were convicted of killing five security officers and one civilian in attacks in June/July 2011 on a police station in the city of Al-Arish and a North Sinai branch of the Bank of Alexandria.

Twenty-five individuals were charged in the case. 

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