GAZA/ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) - Four Palestinians were abducted in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday after the bus they were on was stopped by unidentified gunmen, a Hamas official and Egyptian security sources said.
A bus with about fifty Palestinians on it was travelling from Rafah on the Egypt-Gaza border to Cairo airport when it was ambushed by the gunmen, the security sources said.
Hamas’ interior ministry confirmed that four Palestinians were kidnapped on their way to Cairo.
“We are making urgent contacts with the highest levels of Egyptian authorities to follow up on the circumstances of what happened and we urge the Egyptian interior ministry to secure the lives of the kidnapped passengers and free them,” Gaza interior ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bazoum said.
Al-Bazoum said the bus they were on was being escorted by Egyptian soldiers at the time.
Spokesmen for Egypt’s military and interior ministry could not be reached for comment.
No group has claimed responsibility for the incident.
However Sinai is the focal point of an Islamist insurgency that aims to overthrow the regime in Cairo, and the most active militant group in the area is the Egyptian affiliate of Islamic State, Sinai Province.
The insurgency has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since Egypt’s military removed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi from power following mass protests against his rule, and Sinai Province recently killed an abducted Croatian hostage.
Reporting By Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Yusri Mohamed in Ismailia; Additional reporting and writing by Shadi Bushra; Editing by Chris Reese