Egypt rescues tourists, kidnappers killed
Cairo, September 29, 2008
The 11 European tourists and eight Egyptians taken hostage more than a week ago in a remote border area of Egypt have been freed and half of their kidnappers killed, state-run media said.
Government officials said the freed hostages were on their way back to Cairo. They were reported to be in good health.
The state-run Middle East News Agency (Mena) said Defence Minister Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi had told President Hosni Mubarak half the kidnappers were "liquidated."
Egypt had said four masked gunmen kidnapped the tourists -- five Germans, five Italians and one Romanian -- and their Egyptian guides and drivers on September 19 while they were on a desert safari in a remote border area, and took them into Sudan.
The Italian foreign ministry confirmed the hostages had been freed. The German foreign ministry said it was still checking reports of their release.
The Sudanese army said on Sunday it had killed the leader of the kidnappers and five other gunmen in a gunbattle near the Egyptian and Libyan border, but said the hostages were in Chad under the protection of 30 gunmen.
One security official had said the kidnappers were demanding a ransom of 6 million euros ($8.78 million).
The incident was an embarrassment to the Egyptian government. Tourism accounts for more than 6 percent of Egypt's gross domestic product.
The remote region where the hostages were seized contains cave paintings thought to be about 10,000 years old. It is accessible by desert vehicle from the conflict zones of Darfur and eastern Chad. - Reuters