Two Chinese workers, kidnapped for ransom in Cairo on Thursday in a sign of growing insecurity a year after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, were released after several hours, an embassy official said.
“They are free,” embassy spokesperson Lu Jingchun told AFP, without providing details of how the pair’s release had been secured.
Earlier, another embassy official told AFP the kidnappers were seeking a ransom payment.
“Two Chinese workers were hijacked by gunmen this morning in Cairo. They want money,” the official told AFP.
“The two work at a stone materials company, which mainly focuses on producing marble,” the official added.
An Egyptian security source said it was the first kidnapping of foreigners for ransom in Cairo that he could remember.
China’s state Xinhua news agency quoted the deputy head of the Chinese People Association in Egypt, Chen Jiannan, as saying that the kidnappers were demanding a ransom of 500,000 Egyptian pounds ($83,000/62,000 euros).
The pair were leaving for work from their residence in the Maadi neighbourhood of south Cairo when they were seized, Chen added.
The kidnapping came barely a month after 25 workers in a military-owned cement factory in the Sinai peninsula were kidnapped by Egyptian Bedouin demanding the release of Islamist relatives.
They were freed unharmed on February 1 after being held for 24 hours.
Crime has increased markedly since the ouster of Mubarak in February last year. The police were widely discredited by their use of force in his efforts to resist nationwide protests against his three-decade rule.