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Egyptian army urges Mursi to ‘order attack’ on Sinai kidnappers

Published: Updated:

The Egyptian army has urged President Mohammed Mursi to give them the “green light” to launch an attack operation on Sunday against kidnappers of policemen at the North Sinai town of al-Arish, presidential sources told the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

Four border policemen working at the Rafah crossing, a riot policeman, and a military border guard were abducted on Thursday by armed men who are demanding the release of a group of prisoners held at a police station in the North Sinai town of El-Arish.

Enraged border guards have staged a protest and closed the Rafah crossing, calling on Mursi to help free their colleagues.

Egyptian police also closed a commercial passage with Israel on Sunday in support of colleagues who shut down the crossing with Gaza.

Despite futile attempts in the past two days by moderate Islamist politicians to convince the kidnappers, who are hardline Islamists, to release the six hostages, Mursi continues to negotiate, to “avoid any bloodshed and further complicate the situation in Sinai,” sources told Asharq al-Awsat.

The sources also said Mursi requested the issue be dealt with “vigilance,” adding that he believes negotiations can secure the release of the guards.

Authorities say the kidnappers were reacting to the alleged torture of a militant serving a life sentence in prison, and are in contact with mediators to obtain the captives’ release.

A security official said that the police officer accused of torturing the militant has been summoned for questioning and that the imprisoned militants were reportedly transferred to another prison.

Meanwhile, the police chief of the North Sinai governorate, Gen. Sameh Beshadi, was quoted by Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm on Friday as saying that the kidnappers want the release of militants imprisoned over a 2011 attack on a police station.

Since the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, hardline Islamist groups in North Sinai have exploited the collapse of state authority.