Masked men abduct 19 people in southern Egypt

At least 19 people, including 11 foreign tourists, were kidnapped by four masked bandits near Aswan, in southern Egypt, and are thought to have been led into Sudanese territory. The ministry of tourism said this was "banditry, not terrorism."


Masked bandits have kidnapped a group of foreign tourists, including Germans, Italians and a Romanian, in a remote desert in southwestern Egypt, officials said on Monday.

The group was kidnapped near Gilf el-Kabir near the Libyan border by four Egyptians wearing masks, Mustapha Tawfiq, chief of police in the southern city of Aswan, told state television.

He said those snatched included five Italians, five Germans and a Romanian tourist but he said he had no more details because of the remoteness of the location.

There were conflicting reports about when the attack took place and there was no immediate claim for the kidnapping.

"A group of around 15 people including Germans, Egyptians and Italians were taken by bandits while they were on an expedition in the desert between Aswan and Sudan," a diplomatic source in Cairo had said earlier.

In Rome, the foreign ministry said that five Italians were among those kidnapped.

"Foreign Minister Franco Frattini... is following the matter of the kidnapping in Egypt of a group of foreigners including five Italians," the ministry said in a statement.

Frattini, who was informed of the kidnapping while en route to the United States, is in "close contact" with a crisis unit set up at the foreign ministry and other foreign ministries involved, the statement said.

Israel denied that any of its nationals were among those snatched.

Earlier this month, Israel warned its citizens of a "very high" risk of kidnapping or attacks if they travel to Jordan or Egypt, the only two Arab countries which have made peace with the Jewish state.

The warning came just weeks before Jewish New Year holiday, which is marked this year on September 30 and October 1, when thousands of Israelis usually flock to Egypt's Sinai peninsula.

Egypt has witnessed a number of deadly attacks in recent years targeting foreigners at major tourist sites which have been blamed on Al-Qaeda and other Islamist militants.

The most recent attacks occurred between 2004 and 2006 in popular Red Sea resorts in the Sinai.

In April 2006, 20 people were killed in bomb blasts in Dahab, 70 were killed in Sharm el-Sheikh in July 2005 and 34 people were killed in Taba in October 2004.

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