Video shows kidnapped Egyptian officers
20 May 2013, 14:06
Cairo - Seven men purported to be the members of Egypt's
security forces kidnapped by suspected militants last week appeared in a video
posted online Sunday and urged the government to secure their release by
meeting their captors' demands.
The video, posted on YouTube, is the first sign of the six
policemen and one border guard since they were abducted by gunmen on the road
from the Sinai Peninsula to Cairo on Thursday. Egyptian security officials said
they believed the men in the clip were the missing personnel and that
authorities were treating the matter seriously. The father of one of the
captives identified his son in the video.
The kidnappings have embarrassed President Mohammed Morsi's
government, and are seen as a test of his administration's ability to restore
security to the volatile peninsula. They also have renewed a national debate on
how best to tackle the troubles in northern Sinai, which borders Gaza and
Israel. While many called for a swift security response, some argued that such
a move would spark a backlash.
Authorities have been in contact with the kidnappers through
mediators. The kidnappers have demanded the release of several militants held
in Egyptian jails, including some convicted during Mubarak's rule, officials
In a statement Sunday, the president said that there is
"no room for dialogue with the criminals" responsible for the
kidnappings. The statement followed a meeting Morsi held with politicians from
largely Islamist groups to brief them on efforts to secure the captives'
The president wrote on the social media website Twitter
Sunday evening that "all options are on the table" to free the men
and that the government will "not succumb to blackmail."
Sinai has been wracked by lawlessness since the 2011 uprising
that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Criminal gangs, militants and local
tribesmen disgruntled with what they say is state-sponsored discrimination have
exploited the security vacuum to smuggle weapons, attack security forces and
kidnap tourists to trade for relatives held in Egyptian jails.
In the video released on Sunday, the men, blindfolded and
holding their hands on their heads, introduce themselves one by one.
One of the men identified himself as Corporal Ibrahim Sobhi
Ibrahim and asked Egypt's leaders to free jailed Sinai militants.
"The demands of the brothers, Mr President, is the
release of political prisoners from Sinai," he says. "Please, Mr
President, release them quickly. We can no longer tolerate torture."
The video closes with the men pleading to the camera:
"Rescue us, Mr President. We can't take it. Rescue us, people." At
one point, the tip of a rifle appears over the head of some of the captives,
before it is swiftly pulled back off the screen. There were no visible signs of
torture on the young men.
It was not immediately clear who posted the video, which was
uploaded to a YouTube account created Sunday. Later YouTube took it down,
saying it violated its policy on violence.
An Egyptian security official identified the captives in the
video as the missing personnel. He said a copy of the video was sent to
security agencies, but it was not immediately clear by whom. Another security
official in Cairo said families and friends of the captives were called in to
identify their relatives.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they
were not authorised to brief reporters.
The names of five of the missing also correspond with names
previously obtained by The Associated Press.
Security officials say they believe the assailants carried
out the kidnapping after being angered over reports that a prisoner, Ahmed Abu
Sheta, had been tortured while in jail. Abu Shehata was convicted of attacking
a police station in 2011 that killed police officers.
Lingering feeling of injustice
After meeting Morsi on Sunday, Younes Makhyoun, a leading
member of the ultraconservative Islamist Salafi al-Nour party, said the
president is eager to avoid a security response.
"Even though there are voices who are demanding
security interference and decisiveness, (Morsi) said he wants to rescue the
soldiers peacefully, and is keeping the engagement with local tribesmen,"
Makhyoun told The Associated Press. "The security solution would be
easiest, but he wants to save lives."
Makhyoun said his party is also against a security solution
because it would lead to bloodshed and won't resolve the problem — a lingering
feeling of injustice by many of those who were convicted and arrested during
the Mubarak era. He said the kidnappers' demands include the release of as many
as 600 prisoners, some of whom were convicted before 2011. A way out, he said,
would be to offer retrials for those convicted in the past or in haste.
Mohammed Abdel-Hamid, the father of one of the policemen,
told the private Al-Youm TV station that his son was in the video. He said he
would rather see his son dead than have his release negotiated.
Expressing their anger at the recent kidnapping, scores of
policemen blocked a commercial border crossing with Israel Sunday to protest
the abduction of their colleagues. The policemen closed the main gates of the
Awja crossing with chains, leaving around 40 trucks stranded, according to
local official Ahmed Osman.
On Friday, policemen blocked a border crossing into Gaza.
There was no indication that either Israel or the Palestinians were involved in