Reports of hostage release unconfirmed: Egypitan official (Lead)

September 23rd, 2008 - 9:40 am ICT by IANS  

Cairo, Sep 23 (DPA) Initial reports of the release of 19 people, including 11 foreign tourists and eight Egyptians, taken hostage near the Egyptian-Sudanese border are “unconfirmed and imprecise,” an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said late Monday night. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abdul Gheit was quoted during a trip to New York by Egyptian State news agency MENA as saying that the kidnapped tourists were freed and “in good shape”.

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Hussam Zaki said later that the minister was citing unconfirmed reports.

The five Italians, five Germans and one Romanian had been kidnapped while on a safari near the city of Aswan and had been taken to Sudan. Eight Egyptians accompanying them had also been seized.

Earlier, Egypt’s Tourism Minister Zuheir Garana also said the tourists had been released without payment of any ransom.

Egyptian officials first became aware of the kidnapping when the owner of the travel agency informed his wife about it over telephone.

The kidnappers are suspected to be Sudanese from Darfur, the German wife of the kidnapped travel agency owner was quoted as saying by al-Arabiya TV.

Once the kidnapping became public, Garana and security officials were quick to stress that “the kidnappers are not terrorists, but common criminals”.

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