By Nasser Al-Azzazi, Sinai
Prominent Salafi figure and member of the Ahl Al-Sunna Wal Jamaa in Sinai Sheikh Mohamed Adly spoke to the Daily News Egypt about the truth behind the release of the kidnapped soldiers.
Adly said he condemns the kidnapping of the soldiers and any form of violence. He praised their release without any bloodshed and said this is without a doubt considered everyone’s gain. “We managed to maintain their safety,” he said, adding that if anything had happened to them, Sinai would have been dragged into troubles that it does not need.
Adly said all efforts were directed towards securing the release of the soldiers. He received a phone call from one of the kidnappers at dawn on Wednesday. The kidnapper offered the release of the soldiers on the condition that the kidnappers will not be pursued by security forces. The kidnappers also demanded the release of those accused of carrying out the 2005 Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh bombings as well as those accused of carrying out the 2011 attacks on a Bank of Alexandria branch in North Sinai and on a police station in Al-Arish. The kidnapper also demanded an end to military combing operations and the military aircraft overflights.
Adly contacted the Commander of the Second Field Army in Sinai, Major General Ahmed Wasfy and repeated to him what the kidnapper said. “He promised me that they would not be pursued and called for an end of the military aircraft overflights in return for the release of the soldiers,” Adly said.
The kidnappers informed Adly that the soldiers would be released near Lahfen which lies south of the city of Al-Arish. Adly accompanied Major General Wasfy to the location and within a few minutes, a pickup truck carrying the seven soldiers came through. The truck belonged to a local resident who said he found the soldiers on the side of the road not knowing which way to go, so he decided to take them to the nearest checkpoint.
Adly said the kidnappers are Islamists but did not specify which Islamist group they belong to. He added that their numbers are between 16 and 20 and their only goal was the release of political detainees.
Adly asserted the military operations the armed forces were preparing for have sped up the soldiers’ release because it sent a strong and clear message that the armed forces will find the soldiers at any cost.
He said he did not negotiate or discuss any bargains. He only relayed what happened without adding or taking out anything.
He finally thanked top armed forces officials for managing the crisis without bloodshed or house raids. He added that the geographical nature of the open areas of Sinai would have made such operations difficult and that these operations would have caused losses for everyone.
He plans to suggest holding a popular conference to be attended by “people from all walks of life to develop a code of honour and broad guidelines to counter any effort to disturb the peace of the Sinai community, which by nature loves stability and social peace”.
Adly, who is highly esteemed in Sinai, was tasked to get involved by Sheikh Asa’ad El-Beak, Head of the Ahl Al-Sunna Wal Jamaa in North Sinai. El-Beak was continuously in contact with President Mohamed Morsi to keep him updated on the developments on the ground.
Unidentified gunmen had kidnapped seven off-duty security personnel on Thursday, 16 May; six of them belonging to different sections of the Ministry of Interior and one 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. They had one of them state their demands, which were the release of Sinai political prisoners. The soldiers were eventually released on Wednesday.