Egypt sends tanks to Sinai Peninsula after security force abduction | News | DW | 20.05.2013
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Egypt sends tanks to Sinai Peninsula after security force abduction

The Egyptian army has sent reinforcements into the Sinai Peninsula following the abduction of seven policemen and soldiers by Islamist militants. President Morsi has refused to negotiate with the abductors.

Egyptian tanks and armored personnel carriers crossed from the Suez Canal into the Sinai area where the seven members of the security force were kidnapped last week, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported on Monday.

A military official said the move followed a meeting between Egypt's military leadership and President Mohammed Morsi who said he was unwilling to give in to the kidnapper's demands.

"We will not succumb to any blackmail," the Egyptian president tweeted.

The perpetrators are calling for the release of Islamist militants imprisoned by the Egyptian government over attacks in 2011.

The suspected kidnappers reportedly uploaded a video to an anonymous YouTube account on Sunday, in which the hostages pleaded with Morsi to meet their captors' demands.

"The demands of the brothers, Mr. President, is the release of political prisoners from Sinai," an alleged hostage, who identifies himself as Corporal Ibrahim Sobhi Ibrahim, says in the video. "Please, Mr. President, release them quickly. We can no longer tolerate torture."

Lawlessness in Sinai

The border guard and six police officers were captured last Thursday on the road from Sinai to Cairo.

The incident has highlighted the lawlessness in the region following the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. It has also angered the Egyptian police force and prompted dozens of officers to block the al-Awja border crossing into Israel and the Gaza strip on Sunday in an effort to pressure the government into helping free their colleagues.

Islamist militants have exploited the power vacuum to use the remote desert region as a base of operations to launch attacks against Egypt and Israel. Bedouin tribesmen in the region have long complained of being discriminated against by the government in Cairo.

In August 2012, Islamist militants attacked a checkpoint near the Gaza Strip, killing 16 Egyptian security forces and breaching the border before being killed in an Israeli airstrike. Morsi responded by launching an offensive to regain control of the North Sinai.

ccp/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)