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Morsi rejects dialogue with kidnappers

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-05-20 15:43

Morsi rejects dialogue with kidnappers

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi attends a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, in this May 16, 2013 file photo. [Photo/Agencies]

CAIRO - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday rejected any dialogue with the kidnappers of seven soldiers in Sinai, who appeared in an online video to urge their release.

"There would be no dialogue with criminals," official news agency MENA quoted Morsi as saying while meeting with heads of several political parties to discuss efforts to release the seven soldiers kidnapped early Thursday by militants in North Sinai.

"We won't be subjected to blackmailing," the president added, while stressing the necessity of comprehensive economic and social development in Sinai as one of the means to combat growing extremism in the peninsula.

The video, posted on YouTube on Sunday, showed seven blindfolded young men, with their hands on their heads, identifying themselves as the kidnapped soldiers and mentioning their names, units and ages.

One of the hostages, who was poked with a rifle by someone off the screen, said the kidnappers demanded the release of some " Sinai political prisoners," including Hamada Abou Sheita who was sentenced to death over a 2011 attack on a police station in North Sinai.

They also appealed on Morsi to respond to the demands of the kidnappers to swap them release.

"We hope that you, president, would release the Sinai political prisoners as soon as possible because we can no longer stand the torture," the so-called hostage said.

Through the 2-minute video, the alleged hostage sent the same massage to Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, saying "Your men are dying while you are staying at your office."

"Help us, president!" the blindfolded young men shouted at the end of the video.

The interior ministry is studying and verifying the video, according to state-run Ahram news website.

On the other hand, Egyptian border-guard soldiers closed Rafah crossing point linking North Sinai and the Gaza Strip for the third consecutive day in protest against the kidnap of the seven recruits and to press Morsi to secure the release of their colleagues.

Governor of North Sinai, Abdel Fatah Harhour, denied on Sunday that any negotiations have been made with the kidnappers.

Harhour was quoted by MENA in a press conference as saying that the media reports about the negotiation is "just assumptions that aren't based on executive or security official's statements."

He also denied the arrival of military forces or equipment to Sinai governorate so far, adding the security efforts are currently made in two ways, the first is to identify the gang of the kidnappers as no group has claimed its responsibility for the incident yet; the second is to supply the technical assistance to the concerned authorities to find out an appropriate solution.

On Thursday, a group of militants, believed to be members of the hardline Jihadist group, abducted seven recruits, three from the police and four from the military, in North Sinai's Green Valley, some 20 km away from the governorate's capital city Arish.

On Saturday, a military intelligence source told Xinhua that the Egyptian authorities halted negotiations with the kidnappers due to their "excessive demands."

The kidnappers demanded a swap deal to release some Jihadists and others involved in previous terrorist attacks in return for the seven soldiers, the source said, noting that the Sinai military and police have decided to free the abducted by force.

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