Security officials say suspected militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula abducted seven security personnel, including a border guard, as they headed to Cairo for holidays.

The officials said masked gunmen ambushed two taxis at gunpoint outside the city of el-Arish early Thursday. The gunmen then fled with six policemen and one border guard, none of whom were in uniform. The officials said forces in the Sinai were on high alert, particularly along the border with the Gaza Strip.

It was the first time members of Egypt's security forces were kidnapped by suspected militants. Tribesmen in the increasingly lawless peninsula have briefly held tourists to demand the release of their relatives held on criminal charges. The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.