Report: Egypt steps up efforts to free kidnapped American tourists
From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Saad Abedine, CNN
(CNN) – Egyptian security services in North Sinai are intensifying efforts to get a pair of kidnapped Americans and their tour guide released, state media reported Saturday.
The push comes after authorities received confirmation that the trio was still in the area where they were abducted. Their detention was intended to bargain the release of relatives in custody of Egyptian authorities, EgyNews reported.
Security sources “confirmed that continuous efforts are being made in order to determine the whereabouts of the Americans and the Egyptian tour guide on one hand, and to release them in coordination with tribal leaders and the families in the region,” EgyNews said.
The tourists and their guide were kidnapped Friday in the Sinai region of Egypt, authorities said.
The family of one of the kidnapped Americans identified their loved one as Michel Louis, a pastor from Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Louis was traveling with a group of clergy and church members when their vehicle was stopped and he, another member and their tour guide were detained, the Louis family said in a statement.
“We thank you for you help and concern at this time. We are asking for prayer for the safe return of everyone,” the statement said.
The identity of the other tourist, a woman, was not immediately confirmed.
Bedouin kidnappers want authorities to release a relative who is in detention in Alexandria on drug charges, said Gen. Ahmed Bakr, head of security in the North Sinai.
Kidnappings and armed robberies have increased since a popular uprising ousted Egypt’s long-ruling dictator, Hosni Mubarak, last year.
In February, two American tourists were kidnapped and immediately released in the Sinai region. The same thing happened in June, when two American tourists were released about a day after they were abducted.
In Friday’s incident, Bedouins stopped a tour bus en route to Taba and kidnapped the two tourists — a man and a woman — and their guide, Bakr said.
Authorities are trying to negotiate with the kidnappers, he said.
In a message posted on Twitter on Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said it was “in close touch with Egyptian authorities, who are doing everything they can to bring about safe release of the American tourists.”