By News Agencies
Bedouin gunmen in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula kidnapped two British tourists heading for a beach resort on Thursday. Their aim is to press for the release of prisoners held for arms smuggling, security and tribal sources said.
Security in the isolated desert region has deteriorated since the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising two years ago. Tourists kidnapped in similar circumstances last year were released unharmed.
The Britons were heading in a private car from Cairo to Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular tourist resort, and had stopped to change money in Ras es-Sidr when they were kidnapped by the tribesmen, the sources said.
The kidnappers are demanding the release of four prisoners held in Alexandria on charges of arms smuggling, the sources added. South Sinai’s Red Sea coast is a major tourism area for Egypt.
A Foreign Office spokesman said he was aware of the reports. “We are trying to clarify the situation at this stage,” he said.
Several other tourists have been held briefly by tribesmen in recent months and released unharmed, often after less than a few hours of negotiations with authorities.
Bedouin have attacked police stations, blocked access to towns and taken hostages to show their discontent with what they see as their poor treatment by Cairo and to press for the release of jailed kinsmen.
Two American women were kidnapped in Sinai in February last year but Egyptian authorities negotiated their release a few hours later.
Two other US tourists were kidnapped in late May that year, and then two more US tourists in July. The captives were released within days in both incidents.