Kidnappers free US tourists in Egypt

2012-02-03 20:06
Cairo -Two American women and their Egyptian tour guide, who were captured by armed Bedouins in the Sinai peninsula on Friday, were released unharmed after several hours, security officials said.

The three arrived back at their hotel in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where they were met by South Sinai's governor and security chief, officials said.

Tourism Minister Munir Fakhry Abdelnur said he had spoken to the three who said they were "in good health" and that they "had not been mistreated".

Abdelnur told the official MENA news agency that he has invited the two tourists to dinner on Saturday to apologise over what happened.

Masked gunmen had held up the tourists' bus at Wadi al-Soal in southern Sinai as it left the historic monastery of St Catherine en route to Sharm el-Sheikh.

They stole watches, cellphones and money before snatching the three and taking off.

Authorities had spent several hours negotiating with kidnappers Salem Atwa and Salem Abu Khoshb, who were demanding the release of Khoshb's two sons, in jail on drugs charges, a security official said.

State television said a military aircraft was deployed over South Sinai, as a search operation quickly got underway after the kidnapping.

The abductions came just days after Bedouins in North Sinai briefly seized 25 Chinese workers employed by a military-owned cement factory, to demand the release of Islamist relatives detained over bombings in the peninsula's Red Sea resorts between 2004 and 2006.

Since the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak last February, Egypt has seen sporadic and sometimes deadly unrest coupled with a sharp rise in crime.

The security situation is worst in Sinai, where the resident Bedouin community is heavily armed.
Read more on:    us  |  egypt  |  north africa  |  abductions

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