Egyptian tourists, tourists in Egypt, tourists taken hostage
Saedi Press/AP
Egypt's southwestern desert, where a group of European tourists and Egyptian tour guides
were kidnapped during an adventure safari in the Sahara desert and were taken across the
border into neighboring Sudan, Monday, Sept. 22, 2008.

Kidnappers in Southern Egypt Free Tourists Held Hostage

September 22, 2008 05:06 PM
by Anne Szustek
All 11 European tourists taken hostage by a group of “masked men” believed to be Sudanese nationals Monday have been released. The status of their kidnapped tour guides is still unknown.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters at the UN General Assembly in New York that the 11 hostages were released by their captors, in safe condition.

No further details were given, including the status of the eight Egyptian tour employees who were also kidnapped, or whether the 6 million euros ($8.8 million) in demanded ransom was paid.

The apparent abduction took place on Monday near the Gilf al-Kebir plateau, located near the borders of Egypt, Sudan and Libya. The plateau is famous for its cave drawings. According to reports, the hostages include five Italians, one Romanian and five Germans on a packaged tour, and eight Egyptians who were on the tour group staff.

The group was last seen near Aswan, Egypt, popular among tourists for its ruins dating from the pharaonic period. Sources from within the tourist industry in southern Egypt report that the group was traveling in three or four all-terrain vehicles; Dubai-based paper Gulf News reported that the entourage was scheduled to participate in a motor rally in the desert.

Egypt’s state news agency MENA told the BBC that the owner of the company leading the tour called his wife via satellite phone to tell her that the group had been abducted by five masked men who spoke English “with an African accent.”

Egyptian Minister of Tourism Zoheir Garrana was quoted by Reuters as saying, “This is a gang act [by] masked men.” Garrana said that the kidnappers were “most likely” Sudanese nationals; however Egyptian security sources have noted that they could be Egyptian or Chadian citizens. Security sources also confirmed that the rebels were asking for 6 million euros, roughly $8.8 million in ransom.

Initial reports said that the Egyptian government was negotiating with the rebels. However, Garrana disputed those claims in the Reuters story: “There are no negotiations with the kidnappers because there has been no official contact made by them asking the Egyptian government to intervene,” he said.

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