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Egyptian kidnappers release American hostages, official says

hostages released

From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy

CAIRO (CNN) — Kidnappers in Egypt have released two Americans and their Egyptian tour guide after holding them hostage for three days, a security official said Monday.

“They are at security headquarters with us now, in good condition. The negotiations succeeded, but we did not give in to the kidnappers’ demands,” said Gen. Ahmed Bakr, head of security in northern Sinai.

The freed Americans told CNN they are happy and relieved.

“We are heading directly to Israel to join the members of our church as soon as we get our passports sent to us from Cairo,” said Michel Louis, the pastor of a Pentecostal church in Boston. “I tell my family I am in good health and in good spirits, but I have not taken my medicine since Friday, so I am a little tired “

Family members had previously said that Louis suffers from diabetes and they weren’t sure if he had his medicine.

Lisa Alphonse, a parishioner at another American church, said the group was “treated really well.”

Earlier Monday, a senior Egyptian government official told CNN that intelligence officers had visited with the alleged kidnapper, Germy Abu Masouh, on Friday and on Sunday, and communicated with him by phone.

“We saw the hostages, who seemed to be composed, but in a state of shock and fatigue from the grueling heat, especially Michel Louis, who said he had suffered a minor diabetic attack and avoids eating much,” the official said before the hostages’ release.

Abu Masouh, a member of a prominent Bedouin tribe in the Sinai, had said he wanted Egyptian police to free his uncle, whom Bakr said had been caught in Alexandria, Egypt, with a half-ton of drugs.

The two Americans and their guide were taken hostage Friday when gunmen boarded their tour bus, which was on its way to Israel, family members said.

Louis offered himself as a hostage after gunmen took the female parishioner, his son, the Rev. Jean Louis, told CNN on Monday.

“Being the leader of the missionary group, my mom said that … he stood up and he just asked that they leave the lady and take him. So this is why there’s two people in addition to the translator detained right now somewhere in Egypt,” he said. Michel Louis’ wife was on the bus when the kidnapping occurred.

The family was not aware of security concerns about travel across the Sinai, where Americans had been kidnapped and swiftly released in two separate incidents since February, Jean Louis said.

“If we were aware, I would believe we would use correct judgment not to enter that area,” he said.

Bakr earlier said the situation was “partially the fault of the travel agency,” which he said had not informed police of their route. If it had, “we would have sent a police escort,” he said.

Authorities say the captives are still in the area where they were abducted.

Kidnappings and armed robberies have increased since a popular uprising ousted Egypt’s long-ruling dictator, Hosni Mubarak, last year.

CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz and Ed Payne contributed to this report.

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