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Ransom demand for tourists snatched in Egypt

  • Story Highlights
  • Germany trying to negotiate release of tourist group grabbed in Egypt
  • Officials say kidnappers have made an undisclosed ransom demand
  • Tourists apparently taken across the border into Sudan, officials say
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CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- Germany's government has taken the lead trying to negotiate the release of a group of 11 European tourists and eight Egyptians abducted in the southern Egyptian desert and taken to neighboring Sudan, authorities said Tuesday.

The tourists, including five Germans, five Italians and one Romanian, were safe but being held against an undisclosed ransom demand, tourism minister Mohamed Zoheir Garana told Egyptian TV.

"We are coordinating fully with the Sudanese government to find out the location of the kidnappers," he said.

"However, currently, the German government is in touch with the kidnappers and negotiating the best way to release the kidnapped."

Garana said the abductors speak English with an African accent, but "it is not yet known the location nor the nationality of the kidnappers."Video Watch the latest details about the kidnap »

Magdi Rady, a spokesman for the Egyptian prime minister, identified the eight Egyptians as four drivers employed for a safari company, the owner of the company, and a security detail assigned to accompany the group.

The Egyptian government believes the kidnappers have no ties to any terror group.

Italian media identified the Italians as two men and three women between the ages of 49 and 71.

The group, traveling in a convoy of four jeeps, was abducted in Wadi al-Gadid -- 400 km (250 miles) west of the southern Egyptian city of Aswan, Rady said.

The tourist group started their safari last week in the Egyptian oasis city of Dakhla in western Sahara Desert, Rady said.

Egyptian authorities became aware of the kidnapping through the wife of the safari company owner, he said. Egyptian TV, citing a senior official, reported that the owner telephoned his wife and said the kidnappers were asking for a ransom payment.

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An Italian foreign ministry official urged the media to be cautious about reporting possible misinformation, because it could jeopardize negotiation efforts.

"The situation is delicate and we are asking everyone, including the media, to exercise maximum caution as to what they report," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

"We are in contact with Egyptian officials, and our priority at this time is the safety and safeguard of the hostages."

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No previous instances of tourists being attacked in the Western desert have been recorded, but several clashes took place in Egypt's Nile Valley during the 1990s when President Hosni Mubarak's government battled Muslim militants.

Militants killed 58 foreign tourists in the southern temple city of Luxor in 1997. After 2004, attacks on foreigners moved to the resorts of the Sinai peninsula, where 121 people, including tourists, were killed in several bombings.

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