29 Sep 2008

Six gunmen killed after kidnapping, says Sudan army

11:32 am on 29 September 2008

The Sudanese army said it had killed the leader of a group that kidnapped a group of tourists in Egypt, and the hostages were now in Chad.

The army said one of its units killed five other gunmen and detained two in a gun battle near the Egyptian and Libyan border.

The army said "preliminary information" indicated the hostages - 11 Western tourists and eight Egyptian guides - were inside Chad under the protection of 30 armed men.

There was no comment from the Chadian government.

The army unit seized a white vehicle belonging to an Egyptian tourism company, along with papers linking the gunmen with the Sudan Liberation Army, a Darfur rebel group, the statement said.

Several Darfur rebel groups fight under the name of SLA. It was not clear which faction the Sudanese army was referring to.

Khartoum and the Darfurian rebel groups routinely trade accusations of bombings and acts of aggression in Darfur, a war-ravaged area in western Sudan.

Egypt has identified the tourists as five Germans, five Italians and one Romanian. The eight Egyptians include the owner of the tour company whose German wife has been in contact with the kidnappers by satellite phone, according to Egyptian officials.

They were taken hostage on 19 September and are said to be unharmed.

Egyptian officials say the kidnappers have demanded a ransom from the German government. One security official put the figure at six million euros.