Middle East

Egypt sends extra troops to Sinai after abductions

An Egyptian border policeman displays pictures of four of their colleagues who were kidnapped last Thursday, during a protest at the closed Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza strip, in Rafah, Egypt (20 May 2013)
Image caption Egyptian border police, angry at the kidnapping of their colleagues, have shut down crossings into Gaza and Israel

Egypt has increased its security presence in the Sinai peninsula, four days after seven members of its forces were abducted there.

Armoured vehicles were seen crossing into northern Sinai on Monday in response to the kidnapping.

A video emerged at the weekend apparently showing the men pleading for their release.

The Egyptian president held emergency meetings with security chiefs on Monday morning.

The BBC's Shaimaa Khalil in Cairo says the high level meetings and the troop deployment come amid speculation that force could be used to rescue the seven servicemen.

President Mohammed Morsi has ruled out negotiating with the abductors, saying there was "no room for dialogue with the criminals".

Image caption President Morsi said his government would "not succumb to blackmail"

The kidnappers are said to be demanding the release of political detainees.

The president wrote on his Twitter feed on Sunday that "all options are on the table" to free the hostages and that the government in Cairo would "not succumb to blackmail".

The men, six police officers and a border guard, were captured while travelling in minibuses in northern Sinai, east of the city of El Arish.

While the identity of their captors is unclear, reports suggest they are jihadist militants.

State media have reported that local Bedouin tribal leaders had been asked to act as mediators.

In the unverified video posted online on Sunday, seven blindfolded men are seen with their hands on their heads. One appeals to President Morsi to rescue them, by securing their freedom through the release of political detainees from Sinai.

Crossings closed

The abductions have prompted police to shut down border crossings with Gaza and Israel until the hostages are released.

The peninsula has become increasingly lawless since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011.

There have been several incidents in which Western tourists and other foreigners have been kidnapped.

Correspondents say they are usually released fairly quickly, but some migrants from poorer regions seeking a better life in the West have been seized and brutally mistreated by people traffickers.

Islamist militants in northern Sinai have used the lack of central authority to carry out attacks across the border into Israel.

Egyptian Bedouins have also used hostage-taking to press for the release of jailed tribesmen they say have been sentenced unfairly on charges ranging from terrorism to drug dealing.

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