Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1181, (23 - 29 January 2014)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1181, (23 - 29 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Kidnap victims freed

Four kidnapped labour officials have been freed after paying ransoms, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

Four leaders of Egypt’s General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), kidnapped last week in Sinai, have now been freed. The General Union of Tourism leader, his deputy and a union member were freed on 15 January after a ransom of LE150,000 per person had been paid.
The families of the leaders and government unions shared in paying the ransoms.
Mohamed Eissa, the fourth hostage who is also a top official at the Ministry of Manpower, was released the following day after army forces tightened the noose around the kidnappers. Eissa was freed without paying his LE300,000 ransom.
News of the release of the kidnapped labour leaders was announced last Thursday by GFTU leader Mohamed Salem. Manpower Ministry spokesman Alaaeddin Mohamed confirmed the release of the three men on 15 January, saying that “intensive efforts” were being exerted to free the fourth captive.
Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, a radical Islamist group, claimed responsibility for abducting the four leaders early last week. The Sinai-based terrorist group stated via its Twitter account that the kidnapping had been to pressure the “pagan regime into freeing women in prisons. If this does not happen, wait for more attacks,” it said.
The four leaders were abducted on their way to the Red Sea city of Sharm El-Sheikh, where they were supposed to prepare for a rally to mobilise a yes vote for the referendum on the constitution, which has now been endorsed.
The GFTU claimed that the vehicle of the kidnapped men was found abandoned with their money and belongings untouched.
The GFTU is the largest union representing both farmers and labourers in the country. Its membership totals six million, and it claims to represent another 25 million.
The GFTU said that the head of the General Union of Tourism, Mamdouh Mohamadi, the general secretary, Mamdouh Mohamed, the deputy president, Mohamed Guindi, and the first undersecretary at the Ministry of Manpower Mohamed Eissa had all been taken hostage by unidentified armed assailants in the Oyoun Moussa area, a few miles from the Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel under the Suez Canal that connects the Sinai Peninsula to the city of Suez.
Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis has previously claimed responsibility for several of the terrorist attacks that have hit Egypt since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi last July, including December’s deadly bombings at the Daqahliya Security Directorate that left 16 killed and more than 130 injured.
It also claimed responsibility for an attempt in September to assassinate the interior minister and several attacks targeting security headquarters and convoys.  
In a video released on 1 December, the militant group said that the “war has yet to start”, showing footage of the dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-in in Rabaa Al-Adaweya which resulted in hundreds of deaths in August.
The group is considered to be loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood.
It was only after the 25 January Revolution that Al-Qaeda-inspired Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis revealed its existence for the first time and claimed responsibility for the repeated bombings of the Egyptian-Israeli gas pipeline that extends across Sinai.
It said its actions were against “the Zionist entity”. After Morsi’s ouster, the group widened its strategy to confront the Egyptian army and the police. According to security experts, the abduction operation of the labour leaders was meant to put pressure on the authorities to ease the armed operations against the group in Sinai.
GFTU Chairman Abdel-Fattah Ibrahim praised the army and the security forces for their successful operation in releasing the kidnap victims, having earlier questioned the government’s stance before their release since it had “not issued a statement about the kidnapping incident”.
After the kidnapping of the four union leaders, officials went on strike within the union’s headquarters until the leaders were released. “This villainous operation,” Ibrahim earlier said, “aims at terrorising workers before the voting process on the constitution. We will not hesitate and it will motivate us more in mobilising for a yes vote.”
Minister of Manpower Kamal Abu Eita said the security forces in South Sinai had made every effort to ensure the release of the union leaders. Addressing the militant group, he said, “point your weapons at those who occupy your land and not at those who support your case.”
“These terrorist attacks will negatively affect tourism, which was about to recover,” Abu Eita said in a telephone interview with the private TV channel Al-Hayat.
The World Federation of Trade Unions, which claims to represent 86 million workers worldwide, said in a statement that it denounced the “terrorist attack against the GFTU members”.

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