Kidnapped tourists remain captive; negotiations started

Other News Materials 23 September 2008 13:25 (UTC +04:00)

Nineteen people kidnapped by a gang of masked men in the desert in southern Egypt are still being held despite reports by Egypt's foreign minister that they had been freed, it emerged on Tuesday.

According to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism negotiations for the release of the eleven Europeans, including five Germans, five Italians and a Romanian, and eight Egyptian guides, are ongoing, reported dpa.

Conflicting reports from local media said that a ransom between six and 15 million dollars (four - 10 million euros) had been demanded for their release.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abdul Gheit was quoted during a trip to New York on Monday by Egyptian State news agency MENA as saying that the kidnapped tourists were freed and "in good shape."

But foreign ministry spokesman Hussam Zaki said later that the minister was citing unconfirmed reports.

A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that "we are working intensively to solve the situation," although he would not say whether or not a ransom had been paid.

The nineteen people had been kidnapped on Friday while they were taking part in a visit to the Gilf Kebir, a famous scenic area in the Egyptian Western Desert. News of the abduction only emerged on Monday when one of the Egyptian tour guides telephoned his German wife to raise the alarm.

The identity of the kidnappers has not yet been ascertained, although the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has said that bandits, not terrorists, were behind the grab.