Egyptian army ready to move to free kidnapped soldiers: Sources

Ahram Online, Tuesday 21 May 2013

Military sources say that troops in Sinai are taking up their positions for an operation to liberate 7 Egyptian soldiers kidnapped last week

Egyptian Army
An Egyptian Army vehicle with a tank heads to the closed Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza strip, in Sheikh Zuweyid, northern Sinai, Egypt (Photo: AP)

The Egyptian armed forces have intensified deployment of troops in Sinai on Tuesday in the areas of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid City, in preparation for an operation to free seven kidnapped soldiers, according to Ahram's Arabic website, which cited unnamed military sources.

The report said that armoured vehicles are aiming to encircle the kidnappers and minimise their chances of escaping with the hostages. Main roads were also blocked as mobile and static police checkpoints increased.

Seven Egyptian security personnel, including 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, though kidnappings are rife in the region.

A military source was quoted in Ahram as saying that elements from the Second and Third Army, regional divisions of the Egyptian armed forces responsible for the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal, would be involved in the operation.

However, he denied that the operation is underway as reported, without mentioning when it will begin.

"Doing a military job cannot be hasty or impulsive … it comes after coordination between military and political leaders, after all means of peaceful negotiations are exhausted," he said.

"The fact that troops are moving does not mean the operation has started."

The same anonymous source also said that the police have sent forces specialised in hostage liberation to Sinai to support the deployed troops.

On Sunday, President Morsi said that "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 violent attacks by Sinai residents 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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