CAIRO (AP) — Suspected militants in Egypt's Sinai abducted seven security personnel as they headed to Cairo for holidays early Thursday, security officials said. It was the first such kidnapping of security forces in the lawless peninsula.
The officials said masked gunmen ambushed two taxis at gunpoint outside the city of el-Arish, the capital of North Sinai governorate, fleeing with five policemen and one border guard captive. None of those abducted were in uniform, officials said.
Four of the policemen work in the Rafah border terminal leading to the Gaza Strip, and one was in a riot police unit deployed in Sinai. The border guard was a member of the military. The taxi drivers reported that a seventh member of the security forces was also kidnapped, but authorities said they are still trying to identify him.
Security in the Sinai has deteriorated sharply in the two years since the overthrow of longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak, as it has elsewhere across the country A surge in crime as well as clashes between Islamist backers of President Mohammed Morsi and his opponents have combined with economic woes to feed the sense of insecurity.
A new poll released by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Projects said only 30 percent of Egyptians polled see the country on the right track, compared to 53 percent surveyed in 2012, and 65 percent in 2011.
"Today's level of satisfaction is comparable to the level observed in spring 2010," almost a year before the uprising, the Center's report said.
In the poll, 44 percent of Egyptians surveyed say law and order in the country was getting worse. Conducted in March, the poll describes a divided nation, with 53 percent viewing Islamist President Mohammed Morsi favorably, and only 46 percent expressing confidence that upcoming elections would be fair.
Morsi's opponents are planning rallies Friday in which they demand that he step down and that early presidential elections be held.
The poll surveyed 1,000 Egyptians with a 4.3 percent margin of error.
The abduction in the Sinai is the latest incident to highlight the rise of Islamist militant groups there. Along with Bedouin tribal gangs involved in smuggling and other criminal activity, they have taken advantage of the security vacuum there to step up attacks on police stations, security convoys and other targets.
Security officials say Thursday's kidnapping was carried out by militant groups known to the authorities who are hiding in North Sinai's rugged mountains. Two officials said the kidnapping came after the mother of an imprisoned militant claimed that her son was tortured in detention, causing his eyesight to fail. The imprisoned militant is sentenced to death for attacking a police station in the early days after Mubarak's ouster.
The officials said authorities were sending the family to visit their son in prison again and provide him with necessary medical attention in a bid to defuse anger over his treatment, and secure the safety of the captive security personnel.