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Kidnappers, tourists located says Sudan

Cairo, September 24, 2008

A group of kidnappers and the 19 hostages they seized in Egypt last week have been located in Sudan but there are no plans for a rescue attempt that could endanger them, a Sudanese official said.

Masked kidnappers snatched the hostages -- five Italians, five Germans, a Romanian and eight Egyptians -- from a desert safari near Egypt's southern border with Sudan and Libya on Friday and are thought to have whisked them out of Egypt.

The kidnappers have threatened to kill the hostages if authorities try to find them by plane, an Egyptian official with strong ties to security agencies said, speaking on condition of anonymity. But Egypt's tourism minister denied there was any such threat, the state news agency Mena reported.

Sudanese Foreign Ministry official Ali Youssef Ahmed said the hostages and their captors were about 25 km (15 miles) inside Sudanese territory near Jebel Oweinat, a mountain 1,900 metres (6,200 Feet) high near where Egypt, Sudan and Libya meet.

'An Egyptian team is conducting negotiations with this group on releasing the hostages, while Sudanese forces surround the site,' Ahmed, who is head of protocol in the ministry, told the  state news agency Suna.

Ahmed said the information available indicated that the kidnappers were Egyptian. Egyptian officials have speculated that they are either Sudanese, Chadian or Egyptian.

'We are not going to have an operation that harms the hostages,' added Mutrif Siddig, Sudanese undersecretary of foreign affairs. 'We are intensifying our operation in the area. Our directive is to monitor and guarantee the safety of the hostages. Sudan is shouldering its responsibility.'    

The kidnapping of foreign tourists was the first of its kind in Egypt, and posed a new challenge to the security-conscious government in a country that depends on foreign tourism for 6 percent of the national economy.

Islamic militants hit the country's tourist industry in the 1990s and again in the mid-2000s with bomb and gun attacks that killed hundreds of people and weighed heavily on tourism.

Egypt's state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper quoted Tourism Minister Zoheir Garrana on Tuesday as saying the hostages were all in good health, and that German authorities were in talks with the kidnappers over a ransom.

Security sources said the kidnappers were demanding 6 million euros ($8.8 million) to free the hostages, and said there was no sign militant Islamists were involved.-Reuters




Tags: Egypt | sudan | Kidnap |

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