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72-hour deadline passes for hostages in Sinai - Daily News Egypt

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72-hour deadline passes for hostages in Sinai

As the 72-hour deadline for the American and Egyptian hostages passes, the abductor threatens to harm them if his uncle is not released from prison. Police said authorities were engaged in ending the standoff.

Egyptian soldiers stand guard in Sinai (AFP photo)
Egyptian soldiers stand guard in Sinai (AFP photo)

The 72-hour deadline for the American hostages stowed away in the mountains of Sinai passed on Sunday without a deal struck between authorities and their abductor, marking a turning point for the hostage taker who reiterated they would be subjected to cruel treatment.

“Whatever happens to my uncle, something worse will be done to them,” Jirmy Abu-Masuh told Daily News Egypt. On Saturday, Abu-Masuh made it very clear he would never harm an Egyptian. Abu-Masuh would not allow the hostages to talk to Daily News Egypt.

Ahmed Abo Bakr, Director of Security in Sinai said that the “police are engaged in efforts with people from various tribes to contain the situation.”

“Hopefully, it will not reach the point where he kills them,” Abo Bakr said.

In a telephone interview with Daily News Egypt, Abu-Masuh, said he had now moved on to a stage where he would begin treating Pastor Michel Louis, 61, and Lissa Alphonse, 39, the two Americans held captive, and their tour guide, Egyptian Haytham Ragab, badly. Abu-Masuh is demanding the release of his uncle who he says was unjustly arrested and sentenced to a 100-year prison term, four consecutive life sentences, for drug smuggling.

“We are now in the mountains, where there are scorpions, snakes and monsters and my situation is just as bad as theirs,” Abu-Masuh said on Sunday. “There are only rocks everywhere and there are no air conditioners, the conditions are very bad and we could be subjected to anything,” Abu-Masuh added.

Sinai activist Ahmed Abu Thira’ who has known Abu-Masuh since 2007 says he saw the hostages on Sunday and that they are okay, but uneasy “especially since the authorities said that they would not negotiate with Jirmy.”

Abu-Masuh said he a number of people aiding him in keeping the hostages captive in the mountains, and claimed some 100 villagers from Wadi El-Amr would continue aiding him until the release of his uncle.

“I have 15 cars with 8 people from my family inside each car helping me,” he explained.

“My uncle doesn’t deserve to be there,” he said. Abu-Masuh’s uncle is in his 60s, he is currently being held at Borg El-Arab prison in Alexandria. Abu-Masuh is similarly demanding the punishment of the policeman who arrested his uncle. Abu-Masuh said his uncle is in prison because he got into a fight with the police officer who fabricated the drug smuggling charges in retaliation. He said his uncle’s arrest is a product of Mubarak-era policies that used Bedouins as scapegoats for a number of issues in the Sinai.

On Saturday, Abu-Masuh said he will have to abduct more people of different nationalities if his demands are not met. Abu-Masuh refused allowing his accomplices to talk to the Daily New Egypt, fearing that police would identify those working with him.

He says that there are many men facing similarly fabricated charges in the Sinai.

“Some get execution sentences in absentia, some will have to serve more than a hundred years in prison,” Abu-Masuh said.

Abu-Masuh said he has five children aged six, five, four, three and 15-month- old baby. He said that even his three-year-old son could testify to the systematic police oppression of the people of Sinai.

“Forget about me, what about the rest of the people? What about the children?….They consider us spies,” Abu-Masuh said.

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