CAIRO, Eg. – President Barack Obama and other world leaders called on the Egyptian government on Tuesday to release nearly three dozen archaeologists, including six Americans, who have been trapped inside the Great Pyramid of Giza – the oldest and largest of Egypt’s pyramids – since Saturday.
“The United States calls upon the Egyptian government to immediately end its blockade of the Giza pyramid complex in Cairo and release the thirty-two individuals who remain trapped inside,” President Obama said in a statement on Tuesday. “I stand firm in my commitment to bring our citizens home so that they may be reunited with their families as soon as possible,” the president added.
Cairo remained under a government imposed media blackout Tuesday night as tanks and armored personnel carriers rumbled through the streets of Egypt’s bustling capital city on their way to the Giza pyramid complex. Egyptian Ground Forces were dispatched to the Great Pyramid Saturday morning after reports that an ‘unspecified incident’ had occurred within a recently discovered chamber located on the eastern side of the ancient structure.
Shortly before the media blackout, Egypt’s Minister of Defence and Military Production told The Guardian that a small contingent of soldiers had entered the Giza Pyramid while a larger force secured the perimeter. “The soldiers who entered the Khufu pyramid are currently unaccounted for,” General Sedki Sobhi reported on Saturday. “Radio contact was lost almost immediately,” the general said, adding that ‘intense shooting’ could be heard coming from inside the pyramid directly following the military’s loss of communications.
An unidentified Egyptian soldier told Al Jazeera that a series of explosions, which were believed to have come from within the pyramid, preceded “what sounded like a jet engine starting up; then a white – or bluish – light seemed to come out of Khufu [the Great Pyramid] and envelop everything.” The soldier said he and other members of his unit experienced difficulty recalling the events for a short time after they had occurred. His account was later corroborated by several other witnesses including two British citizens and an American journalist.
Immediately following the event, Egyptian Ground Forces moved to seal off access both in and out of the Great Pyramid by detonating explosive charges at its entrances. Hours later the Egyptian Ministry of Defence reportedly deployed additional ground and air units to Cairo and imposed martial law and a blackout on internet and cellular services for the capital city.
Amid Tuesday’s calls by world leaders for a swift end to the crisis, no new information had surfaced regarding the fate of the soldiers and scientists alike who – since Saturday – have been trapped inside the Great Pyramid, likely with little food or water.