6 Egyptian personnel kidnapped in Sinai

Egyptian Bedouins gather at the scene of an explosion in the Sinai Peninsula. (File photo)

Suspected militants have abducted at least six Egyptian security personnel near el-Arish, the capital of the North Sinai Governorate, security sources say.

Egyptâ„¢s security officials said masked gunmen kidnapped five policemen and one border guard early on Thursday.

Four of the kidnapped policemen worked in the Rafah border terminal leading to the Gaza Strip, and one was in a riot police unit deployed in the Sinai Peninsula, sources added.

The border guard was a military member. This is the first time that Egyptian security forces have been abducted by suspected militants.

They said militants ambushed two taxis at gunpoint outside el-Arish and then fled with the abductees.

Reports say President Mohammed Morsi held an emergency meeting with the defense and interior ministers to discuss the kidnappings. Officials say they have identified the kidnappers.

Militant groups and criminals have exploited a security vacuum that developed in the Sinai since the 2011 uprising against former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Occasionally, tribal Bedouins in the increasingly lawless peninsula would briefly kidnap foreigners to use them as bargaining chips with authorities, urging them to release imprisoned relatives.

In August 2012, at least 15 Egyptian policemen were killed in an assault on a police station at the border between Egypt and Israel. It was the deadliest incident in Egypt’s Sinai in decades.

In response, Cairo launched an offensive against terrorists in Sinai, sending thousands of troops backed by tanks and heavy equipment into the region.

JR/SS

This article originally appeared on : Press TV