A video emerged on Sunday showing what appears to be the seven kidnapped security officers blindfolded. The officers identified themselves and listed their kidnappers’ demands.
The camera rotates between the seven soldiers who state their names, ages, ranks and stations. At one point the barrel of an assault rifle makes an appearance, though the kidnappers are not shown in the video.
The highest-ranking soldier, 20-year-old volunteer non-commissioned officer Corporal Ibrahim Sobhy Ibrahim of the Border Guards, said their kidnappers’ demands are the “release of Sinai’s political prisoners”.
“We beg of you to release the Sinai political prisoners as soon as possible because we cannot take anymore of this. We cannot handle any torture,” Ibrahim said, addressing President Mohamed Morsi.
He added that a prisoner by the name of Sheikh Hamada Abou Sheita topped the list of prisoners the kidnappers demand be released.
Abou Sheita was arrested in September 2012 after being sentenced to death in absentia on charges of attacking security forces.
Security officials on Thursday denied Abou Sheita’s claims of having lost his eyesight in prison due to torture and beatings at the hands of security forces.
“Mr President, are we as valuable to you as [former Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit was to Israel? To the extent that 1,000 Palestinians were released in exchange for this one soldier’s release, and there are seven of us?” Ibrahim asked.
The soldier also carried a message he said was on behalf of the rest of the soldiers to Minister of Defence and the Armed Forces Commander in Chief General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi.
“Your men are dying as you remain on your seat. Please move and take action and release the Sinai political prisoners,” he said before the rest of the soldiers started yelling “save us, Mr President” and “we cannot take this anymore”.
Unidentified gunmen kidnapped seven off-duty security personnel on Thursday; six of them belong to different sections of the Ministry of Interior and one of the detainees, Ibrahim, is a military volunteer non-commissioned officer with the Border Guards.
Meanwhile, President Morsi called for a national dialogue with political parties and leaders which took place at the Presidential Palace on Sunday evening, the presidency announced.
Opposition coalition the National Salvation Front, as well as several of its component parties, announced their boycott of the meeting and called on the president to take more serious action.
At time of print there had been no official response to the video.
North Sinai Governor Sayed Abdel Fatah Harhour held a press conference on Sunday morning and denied that security apparatuses held any kind of negotiations with the kidnappers.
Harhour said they were trying to narrow down the list of places where the soldiers are being held but were having trouble doing so since no group announced responsibility for the kidnapping. He added that the presidency also denied all rumours of negotiations.
“The kidnappers could be the families of those arrested in the aftermath of the 2005 Taba bombing or the 2011 Al-Arish Police Station attacks. It could also be an entity that does not want stability in Sinai and hopes to get the international community involved,” Harhour said.
The governor, a former military major general, said that all options were possible, be it negotiations or a military operation.
“It is better for my son to return a martyr than for the government to negotiate with terrorists,” Mohamed Abdel Hamid Mohamed, the father of conscript Ahmed Abdel Hamid Mohamed, said.
In response to the kidnapping security forces stationed at the Rafah Border Crossing have entered the third day of a sit-in closing the crossing in support of their kidnapped comrades.
Major General Abdel Fatah Harb, their direct superior, tried to negotiate with the soldiers and asked them to reopen the crossing but they refused and kicked him out, chanting “down with the rule of the Supreme Guide”, “the police and the army are one hand”, and “Oh Sisi we are behind you”.
Additional reporting by Nasser Al-Azzazy