Cairo - Kidnappers on Wednesday released three Egyptian
policemen and four soldiers captured last week in the Sinai peninsula, the army
"The seven security personnel have been released by
their kidnappers in Sinai," military spokesperson Ahmed Aly said in a
statement carried by the official MENA agency.
"The seven are on their way to Cairo following their
release, which came as a result of efforts by Egyptian military intelligence in
coordination with tribal leaders in Sinai," Aly said.
Egyptian troops and policemen had begun sweeps of north
Sinai on Tuesday.
The kidnappers were heavily armed with SAM anti-aircraft
missiles and heavy machineguns, interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim said on
He said there were no negotiations with the kidnappers, who
were demanding the release of jailed Bedouin militants, but tribal leaders were
working to persuade the gunmen to release the hostages.
Witnesses in Sinai spoke of increased military movement in
the peninsula on Tuesday, as a military helicopter circled above.
Authorities had also raised the state of alert in hospitals
and emergency services ahead of a possible showdown with the kidnappers.
The capture of the security personnel piled pressure on
Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, whose 11-month rule has been marked by
violent clashes, political turmoil and a devastating economic crisis.
Tension has been running high in the lawless peninsula since
the kidnapping which was followed by two attacks on or near police camps in
On Monday, assailants fired heavy weapons for 25 minutes at
a police camp in Al-Ahrash, followed later in the day by another attack on the
Oja border crossing with Israel, which is also close to a police camp.
Attacks on police and soldiers in the sparsely populated
peninsula have surged since an uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in
2011, as have cross-border attacks on Israel.
In August 2012, suspected Islamist gunmen killed 16 Egyptian
soldiers near Israel's border and commandeered an armoured vehicle into Israel,
where they were stopped by a helicopter strike.