Tourists cross the Egypt-Israel Taba border crossing 370 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The two British tourists that were kidnapped by Bedouin gunmen in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Thursday were freed, BBC News reported.
The tribesmen reportedly kidnapped the British couple, that were headed for a beach resort, to press for the release of prisoners held for arms smuggling, security and tribal sources said.
Security in the isolated desert region has deteriorated since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising two years ago. Tourists kidnapped in similar circumstances last year were released unharmed.
The Britons were heading in a private car from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh, a popular tourist resort, and had stopped to change money in Ras es-Sidr when they were kidnapped by the tribesmen, the sources said.
The kidnappers were demanding the release of four prisoners held in Alexandria on charges of arms smuggling, the sources added. South Sinai's Red Sea coast is a major tourism area for Egypt.
Several other tourists have been held briefly by tribesmen in recent months and released unharmed, often after less than a few hours of negotiations with authorities.
Bedouin have attacked police stations, blocked access to towns and taken hostages to show their discontent with what they see as their poor treatment by Cairo and to press for the release of jailed kinsmen.
Two American women were kidnapped in Sinai in February last year but Egyptian authorities negotiated their release a few hours later.
Two other US tourists were kidnapped in late May that year, and then two more US tourists in July. The captives were released within days in both incidents.
On Wednesday, the National Security Council’s counterterrorism bureau warned Israelis of traveling to the Sinai Peninsula
during the Passover break, due to a plethora of intelligence leads pointing to kidnapping plots and terrorist threats against Israelis.Yaakov Lappin and JPost.com staff contributed to this report.