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.

Tour Group Hostages Liberated

September 29, 2008 11:16 AM
by Anne Szustek
In what the Egyptian press calls a “rescue and recovery operation,” the 19-member tour group taken hostage in the southwestern Egyptian desert a week ago has been released.

The 11 European tourists and their 8 Egyptian guides taken hostage last Monday have been freed, Egyptian and Italian government sources report.

The five Italians, one Romanian and five Germans and their eight Egyptian tour guides landed in Cairo after being flown on an Egyptian military plane from a desert region near the border regions of Egypt, Libya and Sudan.

Zoheir Garrana, Egypt’s minister of tourism, told Reuters that the group has “been released safe and sound.” The Sudanese army is reporting that it killed six of the kidnappers and arrested two more. But officials have given little information as to how the kidnappers were killed or how the group was liberated.

Egyptian spokesperson Magdy Rady was quoted as saying by Reuters, “What’s most important is that they are all in good health.”

The abduction took place last Monday near Egypt’s Gilf al-Kebir plateau, located near the country’s borders with Sudan and Libya. They were later taken into Sudan. On Thursday the group had taken by their kidnappers in three four-wheel drive vehicles from northwest Sudan’s Oweinat Mountain region 10 miles over the border into Libyan territory.

Egypt’s state news agency MENA told the BBC last week 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.”

There had been conflicting reports shortly after the story had first broken from Egyptian state authorities on developments in the case.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters at the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday that the 11 kidnapped tourists were released by their captors in safe condition. But a day later, Hossam Zaki, a spokesperson for the Egyptian foreign ministry, was quoted as saying by Egyptian state news service MENA, “Information from Egypt indicates that the situation is unchanged.”

The Christian Science Monitor cites reports from the Middle East Times that Egyptian journalists reported government restrictions on their coverage of the situation, perhaps out of fears that the crisis would be detrimental to the country’s tourism industry, which accounts of 6 percent of the emerging-market economy's gross domestic product.


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