A group of unidentified gunmen have kidnapped seven Egyptian security officers in the Sinai Peninsula, near the border with Israel, security and Bedouin sources have said.

According to the sources, three policemen and four army officers who were riding in taxis travelling from Arish to Rafah cities, both in North Sinai, were stopped by armed men and kidnapped on Wednesday.

Police confirmed later on Thursday that one abductee was released and arrived at one of the security forces offices to relay the kidnappers' demands.   

It was still not yet clear who was behind the operation or their motives.

Egypt's government has been trying re-establish the state authority that collapsed in Sinai following the 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak.

Armed groups based mostly in North Sinai have exploited the vacuum to launch attacks both across the border into Israel and on Egyptian targets.

Tribesmen have frequently held tourists to demand the release of their relatives held on criminal charges.

In August last year, 16 Egyptian border guards were killed in an attack blamed on fighters who then hijacked an armoured
vehicle that they smashed across the border into Israel, where they were killed by Israeli forces.

Earlier this month, gunmen shot a man dead who was selling alcohol in Sinai. Last month, fighters fired two rockets from Sinai into Israel.

Source: Agencies