CAIRO – Seven men purported to be the members of Egypt's security forces kidnapped by suspected militants last week appeared in a video posted online Sunday and urged the government to secure their release by meeting their captors' demands.
The video, posted on YouTube, is the first sign of the six policemen and one border guard since they were pulled by gunmen from the taxis they were traveling in from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to Cairo on Thursday. Egyptian security officials said they believed the men in the clip were the missing personnel and that authorities were treating the matter seriously.
The kidnapping highlights how much security has collapsed in the northern part of Sinai since the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak. Criminal gangs, militants and local tribesmen disgruntled with what they say is state-sponsored discrimination have exploited the security vacuum to smuggle weapons, attack security forces and kidnap tourists for use as bargaining chips with authorities to push for the release of captive relatives.
In the video, the men, blindfolded and holding their hands on their heads, introduce themselves one by one. One of the men addresses the Egyptian president and defense minister, and asks them to free Sinai militants held in Egyptian prisons.
The speaker identifies himself as Cpl. Ibrahim Sobhi Ibrahim and says: "The demands of the brothers Mr. President is the release of political prisoners from Sinai. Please, Mr. President, release them quickly. We can no longer tolerate torture."
The men then plead at the end of the video: "Rescue us Mr. President. We can't take it. Rescue us, people."
It was not immediately clear who posted the video, which was uploaded to a YouTube account created Sunday.
An Egyptian security official identified the captives in the video as the missing personnel. He said a copy of the video was sent to security agencies. He said it was not immediately clear who sent the video. Another security official in Cairo said families and friends of the captives were called in to identify their relatives.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
The names of five of the missing also correspond with names previously obtained by The Associated Press.
Security officials say the kidnapping appears to have been motivated by claims made by the mother of a man held in prison that her son had been tortured by authorities. The prisoner, Ahmed Abu Sheta, was convicted of attacking a police station in 2011 that killed police officers.
Authorities have been in contact with the kidnappers through mediators. The kidnappers have demanded the release of several militants held in Egyptian jails, officials say.
President Mohammed Morsi said in a statement released Sunday that there is "no room for dialogue with the criminals" responsible for kidnapping the seven security personnel. The statement followed a meeting he had with politicians from largely Islamist groups to brief them on efforts to secure the captives' release.