Egyptians ride a motorcycle past security forces in El-Arish on the Sinai peninsula
Egyptians ride a motorcycle past security forces in El-Arish on the Sinai peninsula, 2011. Egyptian Bedouin tribesmen released two US tourists who had been held in the Sinai Peninsula. © - AFP/File
Egyptians ride a motorcycle past security forces in El-Arish on the Sinai peninsula
Last updated: July 16, 2012

Bedouins free kidnapped US tourists in Egypt

Egyptian Bedouin tribesmen on Monday released two US tourists and their guide who had been held in captivity for three days in the Sinai Peninsula, a senior security official told AFP.

"The two have been released after successful negotiations with the Bedouins and they are now in the North Sinai security headquarters," the official said.

Their Egyptian guide, Haitham Ragab, was also freed, he added.

The negotiations were mediated by Bedouin elders, the official said, but refused to elaborate on the terms of the deal.

The lead kidnapper, Germy Abu Masouh, abducted the two Americans -- a man and a woman -- and their guide in Egypt's lawless Sinai on Friday, demanding the release of his uncle who is being held on drugs charges.

General Ahmed Bakr, the head of North Sinai security, confirmed that the three had been released, in statements carried by the official MENA news agency.

"They are all in good health," he said, adding that the US embassy had been notified of the Americans' release. "Preparations are being made to transport them to Cairo," Bakr said.

The US embassy in Cairo said the Americans had been freed, but could not give their names.

An Egyptian security official, however, said they were Michel Louis and Lisa Alphonse.

The sparsely populated Sinai region is where Egypt's most lucrative tourist resorts are located, but it is also home to a mostly poor and disaffected Bedouin population.

Since an uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak last year, the Sinai has grown ever more lawless, with attacks on police stations and 14 bombings targeting a pipeline that exports gas to neighbouring Israel and Jordan.

The Bedouin have pressed hard for the release of captive tribesmen they say have been sentenced unfairly on charges ranging from terrorism to drugs dealing and people trafficking across the border into Israel.

They have done so in increasingly frequent tourist kidnappings over the past year.

In May, a tourist from Singapore was kidnapped for several hours. Two American tourists kidnapped near the Red Sea resort of Dahab in May were released after less than 24 hours in captivity.

All of the previous hostages have been released unhurt.

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