Last updated: 26 March, 2013

Two tourists abducted in Egypt’s Sinai set free

An Israeli man and a Norwegian woman kidnapped by armed Bedouin tribesmen in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula last week were set free on Tuesday, Egyptian and Norwegian officials said.

The pair, abducted on Friday, were released thanks to the efforts of Bedouin tribesmen, said an Egyptian security official cited by state news agency MENA.

They were in good health, and were freed in the early hours of the morning by tribal leaders, said the agency, without giving further details about the conditions for their release.

The Norwegian foreign ministry confirmed the release of the woman identified as 31-year-old Ingvild Selvik Ask, a paediatrician.

“We are relieved and happy that the situation has unravelled,” spokeswoman Ragnhild Imerslund told AFP in Oslo. “She was apparently treated well and is in good shape.”

The woman, who was transferred to Cairo, was quoted as telling Verdens Gang, a tabloid in her homeland, that “it was the craziest safari I’ve ever been on.”

Her travel partner, Israeli Arab Amir Omar Hassan, was also taken to Cairo on his way home via Jordan, his brother Khaled told Israeli public radio after speaking to him by phone.

“He was freed early this morning. He was in Cairo. He left Cairo for Amman and from there he will come to Israel,” he said.

“He said the experience was a nightmare and he is very happy to be released and won’t be going back there,” Khaled Hassan said.

Israel’s foreign ministry praised Egypt for its handling of the matter.

“Israel wishes to thank Egyptian Authorities for their quick, efficient and successful action for the release of the kidnapped Israeli and Norwegian tourists,’ spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement.

“We all share the happiness of the Hassan family upon the homecoming of their son, Amir.”

Six gunmen had intercepted the tourists’ car and forced them into their truck on Friday as they travelled between the resort of Taba, on the border with Israel, and the coastal town of Dahab further south.

A spate of hostage takings, which usually last for no longer than 48 hours, broke out in the restive Sinai after an uprising forced out president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 and battered his security services.

The kidnappers are normally Bedouin who want to trade the hostages for jailed fellow tribesmen.