Egypt has confirmed that a group of its soldiers has been captured in Sudan as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has said it would cooperate in returning them.
The RSF, now embroiled in deadly armed conflict with the country’s army for a second day, on Saturday afternoon released a video showing Egyptian troops that it said had “surrendered” themselves in Merowe, located between the Sudanese capital Khartoum and the border with Egypt.
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In the video, a group of men wearing Egyptian army fatigues can be seen seated on the ground and speaking with members of the RSF. Another clip shows RSF members standing beside a military aircraft bearing Egyptian Air Force signs, celebrating the plane’s alleged seizure in Merowe.
The Egyptian Armed Forces released a statement late on Saturday saying it is working to bring its troops back, claiming they were there to “conduct joint training with their Sudanese counterparts”.
Egyptian and Sudanese militaries have conducted several joint exercises before, including naval drills announced earlier this month at Port Sudan on the Red Sea amid rising tensions with Ethiopia.
Cairo and Khartoum have been increasingly deepening their military ties, with their armies signing a military cooperation agreement in March 2021 that covered training and border security.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who strongly supports Sudan’s army and pro-army political parties, has tried to improve relations with Sudan after former President Omar al-Bashir lost power in a mass uprising in 2019.
El-Sisi, who took power in 2013 after a military coup, had a phone call with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday, expressing concern about events in Sudan and calling for dialogue.
The Egyptian foreign ministry also said it has been in contact with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, to coordinate and discuss efforts to stop the violence.
An emergency session of the Arab League was held on Sunday to discuss Sudan after Egypt and Saudi Arabia requested it. The 22-member organisation was originally founded in Cairo in 1945 and currently counts Sudan among its members.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, an Egyptian politician and the former foreign minister of Egypt, has been the secretary general of the Arab League since 2016.
Aboul Gheit on Saturday condemned the hostilities, particularly as they come during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when fighting is shunned. He said the Arab League will work toward a ceasefire and ensuring the safety of civilians.