Salafi jihadist groups denied any responsibility for the kidnapping of the seven soldiers being held hostage in Sinai.
Often blamed by the media for being responsible for the kidnapping, the Salafist Jihadism movement in Sinai released a statement denying responsibility and instead blamed the government and military for allowing Sinai to reach the state it is in.
“We have repeatedly stated that our goals in Sinai are to fight the Zionist enemy and that we do not target Egyptian soldiers,” the statement said, adding that the entire kidnapping might be staged in order to provide pretext for an attack on Sinai and the “slaughtering of its people” by the military.
Intensive efforts are being made to free the kidnapped soldiers and return them unharmed, Prime Minister Hesham Qandil said on Tuesday, adding that everyone should back the country’s leadership and remain calm.
“We should realise that we are facing a very dangerous situation and stand behind the leadership and stop with the strikes and sit-ins and start working and producing because playing politics right now stalls the path of development,” Qandil said at a meeting of the Supreme Advisory Council for Workplace Safety and Health.
The Shura Council Committee on National Security, Arab, and Foreign Affairs meanwhile called on President Mohamed Morsi in its Tuesday session to form the Nation Security Council described in the constitution to deal with the Sinai kidnapped soldiers incident.
Article 193 of the constitution describes a national security council entrusted with handling crises affecting national security and is composed of the president, prime minister, speakers of both houses of parliament, ministers of defence, interior, justice, finance, foreign affairs, health, general intelligence chief, and the chairpersons of the defence and national security committees in both houses of parliament.
“The National Security Council is important so that the president could meet all the relevant officials at once instead of separately. The elected Shura Council would be represented in the decision-making process through its speaker and defence committee chairperson,” the upper house’s majority leader Essam El-Erian said.
El-Erian, also the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, added that there is no disagreement between the Brotherhood and the military or between Morsi and the military who he said “was one with the military and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces”.
National Security Committee Chairman Reda Fahmy blamed the media on its handling of the crisis and particularly its airing of the video of the kidnapped soldiers on Sunday, which depicts them blindfolded and bound despite the military calling on all television channels and newspapers to not air it. He added that “all national forces” must be united in the face of this situation.
Presidential advisor Ayman Ali said that the operation to retrieve the soldiers “had started since Saturday” and that President Morsi was in direct control of both the political and military aspects of the operation.
He added that there is full cooperation between all state institutions and that the presidency was not after a “media show” otherwise it would had achieved that a while ago, but rather the priority was to free the soldiers and make sure they are unharmed.
Ali said the presidency did not at any point negotiate with the kidnappers or ask any other group or person to do so on its behalf.
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 is a military volunteer non-commissioned officer with the Border Guards.
The kidnappers released a video of the soldiers on Sunday depicting them blindfolded and bound. One of the kidnapped soldiers recited the demands listed by the kidnappers, which are the release of Sinai political prisoners. Several families identified the soldiers in the videos as their children.
The military and police have been on high alert since and as of Sunday have been shipping in tanks, armoured vehicles, heavy weaponry and personnel into North Sinai ahead of a possible armed rescue effort.