Monday, September 22, 2008

Egypt: European Tourists kidnapped

This is what they were doing there.
Checking out the rock paintings at Gilf al-Kebir.

They have been taken into Sudan. (One might question what any thinking person would be doing anywhere near the Sudan in the first place...wouldn't one?)

Kidnappers have seized 11 European tourists and eight Egyptians during a Sahara desert safari to Gilf al-Kebir, a plateau famed for its prehistoric cave paintings, Egyptian officials said Monday.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in New York that the group had been freed unharmed Monday, and a military official confirmed their release. But Egyptian officials in Cairo and New York later said they had not yet been freed and Aboul Gheit's announcement to reporters that they had been let go was based on incorrect information.

The five Germans, five Italians and one Romanian were seized Friday along with their Egyptian guides and drivers while camping near the Sudanese border, Egyptian Tourism Minister Zoheir Garana said before the release was announced. The kidnappers took the captives, including two Italians in their 70s, into Sudan, he said.

Interestingly enough, the kidnappers are negotiating with the Germans, not the Egyptians.

Egyptian Tourism Minister Zoheir Garana said the tour company that organized the trip was mediating negotiations with the kidnappers, who were demanding up to $6 million in ransom. He said the German government — not the Egyptian — was involved in the talks. Germany’s Foreign Ministry would not confirm, saying only that it has formed a “crisis team” on the abduction.

Also telling, the Egyptians did not report the kidnapping until Monday, after the initial reports were released in Italy. Don't kid yourself. The Egyptians are worried that the incident will dent "the main pillar of their economy", tourism, a $3 billion dollar per year boon.

News that tourists were kidnapped in Upper Egypt, which was once a hotbed of radical Islamic terrorism, at first raised fears of a potentially crippling blow to tourism, one of the main pillars of the Egyptian economy.

Egyptian officials disclosed the kidnapping only on Monday, after it was discussed by Italian officials in Rome. But once it was made public, officials here sought to underscore that the victims were in a remote area closer to Sudan that any major Egyptian city and that it was a "mobsterlike" criminal attack and not one carried out by religious-inspired radicals.

The tour company is Aegyptus Intertravel.

ægyptus Intertravel was established in 1994 as a class A travel agency under license no. 948 by the Egyptian ministry of tourism. From the very beginning our objective was to combine a broad range of services with detailed and careful planning and a personal approach to our clients.

The founders, Ibrahim AbdelRahim and Kirsten Butterweck-AbdelRahim, have studied Egyptology and Oriental Languages in Germany and have 25 years of experience in tourism, thus combining modern and scientific management methods with an ancient tradition of Egyptian hospitality.

Tourists that end up being sitting ducks in the desert. See here.