CAIRO – Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi ordered army reinforcements to the restive Sinai on Monday amid rising tensions there over the kidnapping of seven soldiers by suspected Islamist militants.
In a break from past practices, Morsi said he would not negotiate with kidnappers, which some interpreted as an effort by the beleaguered president to appear tough in the face of his falling popularity and a general decline in security across the country.
Presidential spokesman Omar Amer said that “all options are on the table to free the kidnapped soldiers,” though he did not specify what options might be under consideration if negotiations had been ruled out.
The Sinai has been increasingly unstable since the 2011 uprising that toppled former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. A largely ungoverned region, run by militants and Islamist groups, the northern part of the peninsula has been defined by instability and lawlessness.
It’s the second time Morsi has deployed the army to the Sinai since he assumed the presidency 11 months ago.
The kidnapped soldiers were snatched Thursday while traveling by minibus to the city of al-Arish, and they appeared in a two-minute video Saturday. Blindfolded, the men pleaded for Morsi’s help and implied they had been tortured, though they appeared to be in good health.
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