Egypt Said Readying Sinai Operation to Free Hostages
Egypt on Monday sent hundreds of troops and dozens of tanks into Sinai, in apparent preparation for a military operation to free seven Egyptian security officers who were kidnapped by Islamic fundamentalists. The operation could begin later Monday or Tuesday, sources in Egypt said.
The seven, a border guard and six police officers, were kidnapped last Thursday, and Egyptian government officials have been appealing to the kidnappers and foreign governments for a quiet resolution to the matter – to no avail. Meanwhile, Egyptian police and soldiers have demanded that the hostages be released immediately, with military force to free them if the hostage takers refused. A video released by the kidnappers seemed to indicate that the hostages were being tortured.
The kidnappers demanded that Egypt free Islamist prisoners in Egyptian prisons, saying they were political prisoners.
Reports in Egypt said that large numbers of soldiers have arrived in the port of El-Arish in northern Sinai. Egyptian border guards are standing on the Egyptian side of the Sinai border with Israel, in order to prevent the kidnappers from escaping across the border if and when a military operation takes place. In addition, witnesses reported the presence of tanks and other heavy military equipment in Sinai, the reports added.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is said to have consulted with Islamic leaders to receive a religious permit to carry out an attack. Meanwhile, Islamist groups warned Morsi not to take advantage of the situation to allow his forces to eliminate Islamist groups in Sinai.