Skip to main content

Military: 7 kidnapped soldiers freed in Egypt

By Saad Abedine and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed May 22, 2013
Soldiers arrive in the Rafah Crossing border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on May 21, 2013.
Soldiers arrive in the Rafah Crossing border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on May 21, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza has reopened, state media say
  • The seven soldiers were kidnapped last Thursday in the Sinai Peninsula
  • They are now free and heading back to the capital, Cairo, a military spokesman says
  • Military intelligence services and Sinai residents cooperated to secure their release, he says

(CNN) -- Seven Egyptian soldiers who were kidnapped six days ago in the Sinai Peninsula have been freed, the spokesman for Egypt's armed forces said Wednesday.

The men are now en route to the capital, Cairo, Ahmed Mohammed Ali said on his official Facebook page.

Their release is a result of "the efforts made by the Egyptian military intelligence services with the cooperation of the tribal sheikhs and the noble people of Sinai," he said.

After the news, Egyptian authorities reopened the Rafah border crossing into Gaza in both directions, Egypt's state-run news agency Egy News reported.

The crossing was closed for five days by Egyptian security forces to protest the kidnapping of their fellow soldiers, the official Jordanian news agency Petra said.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya congratulated Egypt on the release of the soldiers, calling it a "major achievement by the Egyptian military and a reassurance of the Egyptian sovereignty in Sinai," Egy News reported.

Gaza has been controlled by Hamas, a militant Islamic group that does not recognize Israel, since 2006. Some in the Egyptian armed forces reportedly suspect it of supporting radical Islamists in the Sinai Peninsula.

Hamas on Sunday rejected allegations that it played a role in the kidnapping of the soldiers. "The only beneficiary of the problematic developments at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip is the Zionist occupation," said Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil, according to the Hamas website.

It's not yet clear who kidnapped the seven soldiers or how their release was secured.

Radical Islamist militant activity has been on the rise in the Sinai.

The official Egypt State Information Service reported Tuesday that a military operation was planned to secure the soldiers' release but it cited presidential spokesman Omar Amer as saying only that all options were open.

Amer said Monday that Egypt would deal "decisively" with the kidnapping situation, the news agency reported.

The government wanted to ensure the safe release of the soldiers and was determined that the same scenario should not occur again, Amer was quoted as saying.

The Egyptian army sent dozens of armored vehicles and personnel carriers across the Suez Canal into North Sinai early Monday, the news agency said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:45 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
updated 7:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
updated 5:54 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
updated 9:31 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT