President Mohamed Morsi on Monday met with top officials – including the grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Egypt's grand mufti and church representatives – to discuss ongoing government efforts aimed at securing the release of seven Egyptian soldiers kidnapped last week in the Sinai Peninsula.
Also present at the meeting – which was convened at the presidential palace in Cairo – were Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, the head of Egypt's Shura Council (the upper house of parliament, currently endowed with legislative powers) and the ministers of foreign affairs, tourism and information.
According to a statement issued in the wake of the meeting, the president explained the government's "means of dealing with the issue and the efforts being exerted to swiftly secure the soldiers' release."
The kidnapped security personnel include one member of the armed forces, four of port security and two of state security.
"He [President Morsi] also stressed the state's determination to continue its efforts to establish stability and promote development," the statement added.
Earlier on Monday, Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb issued a statement demanding the kidnapped soldiers' release, calling on the perpetrators to give up their venture in line with Islamic teachings, which explicitly prohibit kidnapping and extortion.
Following Thursday's kidnapping, a security source revealed that the perpetrators had demanded the release of Sinai-based militants detained almost two years ago.
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.