I caught this scary story earlier today while browsing the Guardian’s website. It seems a group of masked bandits have grabbed a group of tourist that were visiting a remote area of the desert in southern Egypt yesterday. They then moved across the border into the Sudan and notified the Egyptian authorities that they would release the prisoners for $6 million.
In all, 11 tourists were snatched, five Italians, five Germans and a Romanian. Their guides and guards, another eight Egyptians, were also kidnapped, in what is being called “an act of banditry not of terrorism”. There have also been conflicting reports on the ransom, with Al-Arabiya TV claiming the bandits are actually demanding $15 million.
The Egyptian military is searching the area for any signs of the missing tourists and their guides. Egypt’s economy revolves around their tourism, and any type of threat to visitors can do major harm to that trade. More than a decade ago, 62 people were killed in a terrorist attack, 58 of those being foreign tourists, near Luxor, causing the tourist traffic to dry up for a time, and causing major damage to Egypt’s economy. The Ministry of Tourism took steps to make the country safer for tourists by hiring more police to give armed escorts and making it mandatory for armed guards to go with all tourist groups. Since that time, there have been few incidences directed at foreign visitors.
When I was in Egypt a few years back, we had two very well armed guards with us at all times, and they didn’t let us stray too far out of sight. At night, two police cars would escort our vehicles through Cairo, and most of the major monuments, such as the pyramids and sphinx, were patrolled by guards as well. They made it clear that while things were very safe, there were still people in the country that might want to do harm to westerners. I didn’t have any major issues (with the exception of a scary incident in the Khan El-Khalili Bizaar where I got lost), and everyone I met there was very accommodating.
Lets hope these kidnapped tourists make it home safe and sound.
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