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