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Mursi orders military operation to free hostages

May 18, 2013 8:46 P.M. (Updated: May 19, 2013 10:31 P.M.)
El-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi on Saturday gave orders to the ministry of defense to begin military operations in Sinai to free seven kidnapped Egyptian servicemen, security sources said.

Senior military officials told Ma'an that security and police officials in Sinai held emergency meetings on Saturday to execute the president's orders and will deploy in areas around Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid.

Military operations will begin once intelligence services have verified the identity of the suspects, and their exact locations.

Egyptian intelligence officers believe the kidnapped officers are held in different locations and intelligence services told Ma'an that some locations have already been identified.

Earlier, Egypt's defense minister said he would send a large combat force to Sinai within 48 hours after unsuccessful efforts to negotiate the release of seven kidnapped Egyptian servicemen.

Local Bedouin leaders had been called in to mediate after gunmen ambushed two minibuses in Sinai's Wadi al-Akhdar early Thursday and kidnapped seven members of Egyptian security forces.

The captors are demanding the release of all suspects arrested on suspicion of attacks in Sinai, including an August attack on the el-Arish police station that killed 16 Egyptian officers.

Islamist militants have exploited the lawlessness and upheaval in the Sinai peninsula to establish a launchpad for increasingly brazen attacks on security forces, a key gas export pipeline and on neighboring Israel.
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