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Freed European, Egyptian Hostages Contradict Government Tale of Rescue

The 19 Europeans and Egyptians kidnapped in the Sahara desert last week are disputing the Egyptian government's account of their rescue.

The hostages told reporters Tuesday that their captors had suddenly given them a jeep and told them they were free to go. They say they drove for hours across the desert, guided by a GPS (global positioning system) device, before finally arriving in Egypt.

The hostages' account seems to contradict the story told Monday by Egyptian officials, who claimed that Egypt's special forces had freed the tourists in a dramatic pre-dawn raid.

Italy's foreign minister had indicated that Italian special forces also were involved in the rescue.

The reason for the contradictory accounts was not immediately clear.

The 11 European tourists and eight Egyptians were abducted September 19 during a desert expedition in southwestern Egypt, then taken across the border to Sudan.

Kidnappings of foreigners are rare in Egypt, although militants have killed many people in bombings and shootings at tourist sites.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.