Last updated: 19 March, 2012

Egypt confirms release of Brazilian hostages

Two Brazilian women tourists kidnapped by Bedouins Sunday in the Sinai peninsula were released hours later, Egyptian police confirmed Monday.

“The security services have succeeded, in cooperation with Bedouin leaders, to obtain the release of two Brazilian tourists who were kidnapped with a guide and a member of the Egyptian tourist police,” a police source told AFP, stressing that all four were safely released.

A Brazilian foreign ministry spokesman said that the two tourists, aged 18 and 45, were taken back to their hotel where the rest of the passengers on the bus they were traveling on are staying.

“Regarding the Brazilians, we do know that they are in good health,” the spokesman added.

Dejair Batista Silveiro, father of one of the women and witness to the kidnapping, told Brazilian media that he had spoken to his daughter Sara after their release.

“She’s alive. I spoke to her by telephone after and she said ‘Daddy, I’m fine’,” he said.

Two armed Bedouin stopped the tour bus containing 38 tourists at gunpoint, before driving off with their hostages towards the peninsula’s mountains, a police official said.

One of the kidnappers was said to be the father of a man sentenced to prison on drugs and weapons charges, and that he wanted his son’s release.

The tourists had been returning from a visit to the historic monastery of St Catherine in southern Sinai.

The incident marked the third kidnapping of foreign tourists in two months in the Sinai.

In February, Bedouin demanding the release of jailed tribesmen kidnapped three South Korean tourists in the same area, shortly after the abduction of two American women and their Egyptian tour guide.

The tourists and the guide were all released quickly and unharmed in that case also, as were 25 Chinese workers seized at the end of January.

The sparsely populated region is where Egypt’s most lucrative tourist resorts are located, as well as being home to a mostly poor and disaffected Bedouin population.

Since an uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak last year, the Sinai has grown even more lawless, with attacks on police stations and almost monthly bombings targeting a pipeline that exports gas to neighbouring Israel.

The Bedouin have pressed hard for the release of captive tribesmen they say have been sentenced unfairly on charges ranging from terrorism to drugs dealing.

On Friday, dozens of heavily armed tribesmen agreed to end an eight-day long siege of an international peacekeepers’ camp in the north of the peninsula after the military promised to look into their demand.

The Bedouin said they would give the military a month to meet their demand for the release of jailed tribesmen, some convicted on terror charges. None of the peacekeepers, tasked with monitoring a treaty with Israel, was harmed.

Egypt’s military, in power since Mubarak’s ouster, tried to quell Islamist radicals in the peninsula with limited success last year, and the authorities now appear to prefer negotiating with armed tribesmen.

The military has already pardoned 18 Bedouin outlaws sentenced by military tribunals in absentia, while a state security court ordered a new trial for five Bedouin accused of deadly bombings in two Sinai tourist resorts in 2004.