CAIRO (Reuters) - Gunmen kidnapped an Egyptian police officer on Sunday in the Sinai Peninsula, home to Islamist militants seeking to topple the country’s government, security sources and the state news agency said.
The policeman was traveling in a bus from the north Sinai city of Rafah to Al-Arish when the gunmen stopped the vehicle and took him away.
“This seems like a terrorist operation, not a criminal one, but we are not sure if it is Ansar yet,” a security official told Reuters.
Ansar is Egypt’s most lethal militant group, which used to be called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis before recently changing its name to Sinai Province.
It has sworn allegiance to Islamic State, the hardline Sunni militant group that has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria and threatens to redraw the map of the Middle East.
No group has claimed responsibility for the Sinai kidnapping.
Sinai Province has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
Kidnappings of members of the security forces are rare.
Any signs that militants are kidnapping as a new tactic are likely to raise fresh security concerns in Egypt, where the vital tourism industry and economy have suffered from violence.
Egypt’s insurgency is concentrated in the Sinai, which borders Gaza, Israel, and the Suez Canal. But attacks have also occurred in cities, including Cairo.
Complicating efforts to eradicate the insurgency is the presence of Egyptian militants thriving in the chaos of neighboring Libya. Security sources say the militants are opposed to the Cairo government and have established ties with Sinai Province.
Wrting by Shadi Bushra; Editing by Michael Georgy and Gareth Jones