Egyptian soldiers kidnapped in Sinai released after talks


McClatchy Foreign Staff

Seven soldiers kidnapped last week by suspected Islamist militants in the restive Sinai were freed after a six-hour negotiation between local tribesmen and the kidnappers, the Egyptian government announcement Wednesday.

The soldiers, who’d been held since Thursday, were taken to an air force base in Cairo, where they were greeted by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who kissed each on both cheeks and used the release to call for more efforts to secure the Sinai.

Often neglected by Egyptian authorities since the 2011 uprising that led to the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the Sinai has increasingly been marked by instability and lawlessness.

Morsi, who frequently calls for reconciliation with liberal opponents, used the soldiers’ release to reach out to the Sinai’s tribesmen and rogue militants.

"I extend my hand to all of those who want good for this country – and I believe everyone does – in order for us to genuinely be the owners of the January 25 revolution. Let us be one body even if we have to step on thorns,” Morsi said.

The kidnapping gave Morsi, who’s been sharply criticized for his inability to solve the country’s economic problems, an opportunity to appear presidential as he met with the military and gave orders to beef up the military presence in the Sinai. Egyptian helicopters reportedly buzzed, and perhaps bombed, suspected militant encampments.

Precisely how the kidnapping was resolved was unclear, however. Local tribesmen and the kidnappers held a six-hour negotiation session that began at midnight Wednesday. The kidnappers reportedly asked for the government to consider releasing suspected militants from Sinai held in government prisons and for the Egyptian army to stop flying helicopters overhead in response to the kidnapping.

What the government agreed to was not known, but by midmorning the tribesmen gave the military the location of the kidnapped troops, who were picked up in the desert and flown to Cairo, where Morsi greeted them about 11 a.m.

The use of Egyptian helicopters to intimidate the kidnappers was rare in the Sinai. The 1979 Camp David Accords, which set the conditions for an Israeli withdrawal from the area, require Egypt to obtain permission from Israel before deploying forces to the Sinai. Israeli newspapers reported that the Egyptian actions had been coordinated with Israel.

The soldiers were snatched while traveling by minibus to the city of al Arish. They appeared blindfolded in a two-minute video Saturday in which they pleaded for Morsi’s help and implied they’d been tortured, though they appeared in good health.

The latest kidnapping marked the second time in his 11-month presidency that Morsi sent tanks and troops to restore order in Sinai. In August, he sent forces in after 16 Egyptian troops were killed after being snatched by militants.

McClatchy special correspondent Amina Ismail in Cairo contributed to this report.

Email:; Twitter: @nancyayoussef

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • 7 killed, 13 missing as boat sinks in Indonesia

    An official says a boat carrying villagers sank after hitting a stump in a river in western Indonesia, leaving a woman and six children dead and at least 13 others missing.

  • Malaysian prime minister in Netherlands

    Malaysia's prime minister has arrived in the Netherlands ahead of a meeting with his Dutch counterpart to discuss plans for repatriating remains of Malaysian victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and continuing problems accessing the crash site in eastern Ukraine.

CORRECTS TO WARSAW UPRISING - In this photo taken Tuesday, July 8, 2014, Kazimierz Mikos, 84, pages through a booklet devoted to a movie about the 1944 Warsaw Uprising in Warsaw, Poland. As a 14-year-old boy Mikos was a guard and messenger in Warsaw’s struggle against the occupying Nazi Germans. He will be among hundreds of fighters attending the ceremonies of the 70th anniversary of the ill-fated struggle that led to the destruction of some 30 percent of the city’s substance and the loss of some 200,000 lives.

    Haunting memories 70 years since Warsaw Uprising

    Kazimierz Mikos ran down a Warsaw street, zig-zagging to avoid the bullets that whizzed past him. As the 14-year-old ran for his life, he was struck with terror at the sight of a dead body in the street. Even after the scrape with death, the teen volunteered for a heroic Polish struggle against the Nazis — becoming a messenger and a guard.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category