30 Sep 2008

Sahara hostages freed unharmed

6:01 am on 30 September 2008

Eleven European tourists and eight Egyptians abducted in the Egyptian desert have been freed unharmed.

Egyptian officials said on Monday that some of their kidnappers were killed.

The freed hostages arrived in Cairo aboard an Egyptian military plane, to be greeted by Egyptian military and government officials and foreign diplomats.

They were freed after being held for 10 days. The incident has reportedly embarrassed Egypt which depends on tourism for 6% of its gross domestic product.

Tourism Minister Zoheir Garrana told reporters no ransom was paid from any of the hostage countries.

Masked gunmen seized the five Germans, five Italians, one Romanian and eight Egyptians on 19 September near Egypt's borders with Sudan and Libya and then taken into Sudan.

Sudan has blamed the kidnapping on a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, a Darfur rebel group.