Posted at 08:16 AM ET, 02/03/2012

Gunmen kidnap two American tourists in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula

Update, 11:51 p.m.: The two American tourists have been released The women were not immediatebly identified, but Egyptian officials said they were age 60 and 65.

Two female tourists and their Egyptian tour guide Friday were intercepted by gunmen and kidnapped in the southern part of the Sinai peninsula, The Post’s Ernesto Londono reports.


St. Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt. (Hussein Talal - AP)
The kidnappers were reportedly Bedouins, nomads who dwell in the desert. Their identities remain unknown. A helicopter search-and-rescue mission is underway.

A police captain in Sinai said authorities believe the abductors might be trying ti secure the release of fellow tribesmen detained in last week’s shooting.

Katharina Gollner-Sweet, the U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Cairo, told the Post in an e-mail: “We are working closely with the Egyptian authorities to do everything possible to ensure the tourists’ safety.”

The Egyptian Interior Ministry told  the New York Times it is holding talks with local leaders to try and locate the tourists

The tourists were near St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai when the kidnapping occurred, on the start of a return trip to the Red Sea resort town of Sharm-el-Sheikh, according to the state newspaper Al-Ahram. As recently as August, Foreign Policy called the Sinai peninsula “Egypt’s Wild West.


St. Catherine’s Monastery, almost 250 miles from Cairo. (Google Maps)

Three other people who were in the minivan were left behind, according to Naguib. It is unclear what nationalities they were.

Also in Sinai, a group of 25 Chinese workers were kidnapped by Bedouin tribesmen last month and then freed a day later, the BBC reported. The tribesmen had kidnapped the workers to demand the release of detainees held over bombings in the peninsula between 2004 and 2006, according to ABC News.

Last month, Bedouins kidnapped 50 German and British tourists who unintentionally crossed a roadblock set up in protest of the governor of South Sinai, the Guardian reported. The tourists were released several hours later.

Egyptian protesters blame deteriorating security and rising crime in the country on the military council that assumed power after the ouster of longtime rule Hosni Mubarak almost a year ago.

The unrest has also led to a sharp decline in tourism in the region, with The Post’s Frederick Kunkle reporting in April that once popular tourist attractions now “resembled a ghost town.”

Egypt’s new minister of tourism, Mounir Fakry Abdel Noor, estimated last month that the number of tourists who visited Egypt in 2011 had fallen by almost five million from the previous year.

Last week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s son Sam, who is working for a pro-democracy group in Egypt, was barred from leaving the country, along with at least five other Americans.

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By  |  08:16 AM ET, 02/03/2012

Tags:  World, Egypt, Sinai, tourists, security

 
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