Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Egypt: European hostages speak about their ordeal.

There's no place like home.

Deny that a military raid even took place.

"At a certain point we thought it was all over," Walter Barotto, an Italian among a group of 19 people kidnapped in Egypt, told La Stampa newspaper.

They say they were suddenly released by their kidnappers, not rescued in a raid that involved a gunfight, as Egyptian officials earlier claimed. "Shots? We didn't hear any," 70-year-old Italian tourist Mirella De Guili told reporters upon arriving at Turin's airport on Tuesday.

The tourists and their guides said they were allowed by the kidnappers to leave in a single vehicle. "We put our trust in God and drove in the desert for five or six hours, with no spare tyre and very little water. If we made a mistake, we would die," Ms De Guili said.

"There were 19 of us packed into one car, some on the roof," Hassan Abdel Hakim, one of the kidnapped Egyptians, told the Associated Press news agency. Mr Hakim revealed that moments before they were allowed to leave in the car he thought he and the other Egyptian guides were about to be killed. "They told all the Egyptians to stand in one line and they cocked their weapons, and at that moment we thought we were dead," he said.

But they were then told they could take one car and leave.

The tourists said they later spotted two armed men who "luckily" turned out to be Egyptian soldiers.

The tourists also revealed dramatic details of their seizure at gunpoint by unidentified attackers on 19 September, which was followed by a dash through remote areas of the Sahara Desert. Giovanna Quaglia, another Italian tourist, told La Stampa: "The water and food was rationed, we were scared."

"They never hit us but with us - women - they were very strict. We had to keep our faces covered."

"The worst moments were Saturday and Sunday, there was no news and we understood that the negotiations had stalled. It's an experience that I would not wish on anyone," Ms De Giuli said.

Did you hear that Government of Egypt? What do you have that army for? Use the damn thing!