Seven Egyptian security personnel who were kidnapped in the Sinai peninsula last week have been released, the Egyptian Army said Wednesday.
Six policemen and a border guard were traveling to Northern Sinai when they were abducted by heavily armed kidnappers demanding the release of jailed Bedouin militants, Al Jazeera reported.
“The seven kidnapped soldiers...were released thanks to the work of military intelligence, and in cooperation with the noble tribal leaders of Sinai," army spokesman Col. Ahmed Ali said in a statement Wednesday.
Egypt had deployed dozens of tanks and hundreds of soldiers in the isolated area to rescue the seven abducted personnel, and threatened military action if the kidnappers were tracked down.
The Rafah border crossing into Gaza had been closed for five days in protest of the kidnappings; it reopened on Wednesday.
The men were given a "red-carpet welcome" by President Mohammed Morsi at an airbase outside Cairo upon their return.
The Sinai peninsula has become a "security vacuum" since Mubarak was toppled in the 2011 uprisings, and Egypt has struggled to keep militants from taking control of the area.
Presidential spokesman Ihab Fahmy said at a press conference that there were "no concessions nor negotiations" made in the release, though he gave no further about how the men were freed.
"I call on everyone in Sinai who has weapons to turn them in. This nation is bigger than all of us and weapons can only be in the hands of the government," Morsi said after greeting the freed hostages, Reuters reported.
"This is not a short-term operation that ends, and (the release of) our sons without a drop of blood being spilt is the first part of it," he added.
The identity of the kidnappers remains unknown, though Hamas was suspected of being involved.
The group rejected those allegations, however, saying in a statement that "the only beneficiary of the problematic developments at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip is the Zionist occupation," CNN reported.
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