A European tour group taken hostage by gunmen in southern Egypt 10 days ago has been released. As Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi, the 11 European tourists, along with eight Egyptian drivers and guides, are thought to be in good health, and are being taken back to Cairo.
The tourists, five Germans, five Italians, and one Romanian,¨were abducted on September 19, while on a trip to the Gelf el-Kebir region of southwest Egypt, near the border with Sudan. The hostages were taken into Sudan and later to Libya, though it remains unclear where they were finally released.
Egyptian state-owned television reported the release of the hostages, which was confirmed by Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini. Frattini referred to an operation to secure the tourists' release, with the cooperation of Sudan and Egypt, but declined to offer details.
The announcement came a day after Sudanese troops killed six of the hostage-takers in a shootout. Sudanese Foreign Ministry official Ali Youssef says, two gunmen were also arrested.
"These eight people were driving a vehicle with Egyptian plates and were moving in the area and they were intercepted by the army and there was a fight," he said. "Six of them were killed, and two were captured, and are now being interrogated. The two said that the hostages are kept in a hideout inside Chad, near the border, in preparation for the exchange of the hostages for a ransom."
The attackers had demanded a ransom of nearly $9 million from the German government.
Other Sudanese officials have suggested that the gunmen involved in Sunday's clash were linked to a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, a rebel group in the country's western Darfur region. Rebels with the Sudan Liberation Army, as well as other Darfur rebel groups, have denied any involvement.