We know the identity of soldiers' kidnappers: Egyptian army

Ahram Online , Wednesday 22 May 2013

Egyptian government and army stress that security issues are under control in Sinai, and say identity of militants who kidnapped seven soldiers will be released at 'the appropriate time'

press conference
A snapshot of Egypt's military press conference

Egyptian authorities have announced that they know the identities of the kidnappers of seven soldiers freed on Wednesday.

At a press conference held jointly by the presidential office, the armed forces and the police, a presidential spokesperson, Ihab Fahmy, said that the soldiers’ release came without any negotiations with the militants who kidnapped them, and with the cooperation of all state institutions.

Fahmy said that the security operation in Sinai, where the soldiers were held, is ongoing, and called on the Egyptian nation to stand united.

Military spokesperson Colonel Ahmed Ali said the security operation in Sinai did not start in the last 48 hours, but rather has been ongoing since August last year when 16 Egyptian border guards were killed in an attack by armed militants.

“Freeing the soldiers was only one step in our operation,” Ali said.

Military intelligence officials played a key role in Wednesday’s operation to free the soldiers, according to Ali.

Ali added that the armed forces have all the relevant information on the kidnappers, but would only announce the details “at a more appropriate time.”

Police spokesperson Major General Hani Abdel-Latif said the status of the police forces in Sinai was better than it had been after the January 25 revolution, and said that security forces were gaining ground in the region.  

Sinai has been dogged by instability and security problems in the past few years.

According to Ali, since September, the military has been increasing the number of troops in all three geographical zones of the peninsula. A total of 287 tunnels connecting Egypt to the Gaza Strip have been destroyed by the armed forces.

Ali thanked the residents of Sinai for their ongoing aid to the Egyptian armed forces in maintaining security, but reiterated that the army’s role in the operation was crucial.

Ali also stressed the importance of economically developing the Sinai Peninsula.

A conscript of the armed forces and six police personnel were released early on Wednesday after being held by kidnappers in Sinai for almost a week.

President Morsi received the seven soldiers in Cairo on the same day, and held a press conference thanking the military, interior ministry, general intelligence services and other government branches for securing the hostages' release without bloodshed.

He also paid tribute to local tribal leaders for their support.

The kidnappings had put the president under pressure. Members of the security forces went on strike in protest at the events, blocking the Gaza border.

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