By Sven Milekic
Two members of an Egyptian anti-terrorist unit were reported killed in a landmine blast during the search for Croatian citizen Tomislav Salopek, taken hostage by ISIS last month.
Egyptian police, antiterrorist units and secret services are continuing to search for Salopek after a deadline for fulfilling ISIS’s demands passed, the interior ministry in Cairo said on Sunday.
An anti-terrorist unit was searching for Salopek in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula when they drove over a landmine which killed two and wounded three members of the unit.
The Croat was taken hostage by ISIS in Cairo on July 22 and a video showing him reading the militant group’s demands was published online last Wednesday.
In the video, he said that ISIS would kill him within 48 hours – on Friday 5.35 pm Central European Time – if its demands were not fulfilled. ISIS was asking the Egyptian authorities to release imprisoned Muslim women in order to spare Salopek’s life.
But interior ministry said that ISIS has not contacted the Egyptian authorities since Friday.
The Egyptian foreign ministry also said on Sunday that there were some leads about where Salopek could be held.
The Croatian foreign ministry said on Sunday that Zagreb is using all means possible to help resolve the situation, but repeated its plea to the media not to publish unconfirmed information.
Salopek has a wife and two children in Croatia and is employed as a topographer at a French company called Compagnie Générale de Géophysique. The company has confirmed on Wednesday that Salopek is their employee.
France is also following the case and the French ambassador in Zagreb, Michele Boccoz, said on Saturday that the Egyptian authorities have made significant progress in tracking down Salopek.
Salopek was taken hostage in Cairo, while driving to work in a company car, on a road where no similar incidents had been recorded before. Armed men stopped the car and made the driver leave the vehicle.
The Sinai Peninsula in the east of Egypt is a centre of an Islamist insurgency led by a militant group originally called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which then became part of ISIS in 2014.