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25 Chinese held captive in Sinai are released, state media report

By the CNN Wire Staff
February 1, 2012 -- Updated 0358 GMT (1158 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China says the kidnapped workers have been released
  • The 25 workers were abducted in the Sinai on Tuesday on their way to work
  • They were held captive by Bedouins seeking the release of prisoners by Egypt

Cairo (CNN) -- More than two dozen Chinese workers who were kidnapped by Bedouins on their way to work in Egypt have been released after the Egyptian authorities intervened, the official Chinese news agency reported Wednesday.

The workers were in good condition, the news agency Xinhua said, citing an official from the Chinese Embassy in Cairo who had met them in the Sinai, the region where they were abducted. The short bulletin from Xinhua did not give further details on the release.

The men -- 24 workers and a translator -- were on a bus being driven to a military-owned cement factory on Tuesday when they were stopped by locals and taken to a makeshift tent nearby, according to Ma Jianchun, an embassy official cited by Xinhua on Tuesday.

A group of armed Bedouin demanding the release of prisoners by the Egyptian government had been blocking the road for four days, the Egyptian security forces said.

The Sinai Bedouin have claimed that the now dissolved State Security apparatus has killed their members in cold blood and unfairly imprisoned many Bedouin who had not harmed the Egyptian state in any way.

"Dozens of Bedouin from different tribes including Tarabeen and Swarke and Islamist extremists have been blocking the road for days, distributing flyers, calling for the release of framed detainees and stopping the export of gas to Israel, " Salem Aenizan, a Bedouin from the Tarabeen tribe said. "We have been marginalized and not allowed to own land, and framed by the police as drug and weapons dealers."

The Bedouin were calling for the release of "several men sentenced in relation to the 2004-2006 bombings in South-Sinai and Sharm El Sheikh," said Egyptian Gen. Saleh Al Masry, the head of North Sinai Security. The Sinai is an area in northeastern Egypt that borders Israel and Gaza.

Officers from the Egyptian intelligence services and the Ministry of Interior had gone to the scene with neutral Bedouin escorts who volunteered to mediate for the release of the workers.

"The Bedouin involved are angry that no one from government responded to them for days," said Ibrahim Maenei, a Bedouin from the Swarke tribe who was assisting the police. "The bus transporting the workers drove by them so they hijacked the bus to get the military's attention. They want the release of five Bedouin on death row for the bombings of Sinai."

Journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

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