German holidaymakers kidnapped by guide

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The Independent Online

Four German holidaymakers were at the centre of a bizarre hostage crisis in southern Egypt last night, after they were kidnapped by a tour-guide trying to use them as bargaining chips in a custody battle with his estranged German wife. Officials say the four men were abducted near the ancient city of Luxor.

Four German holidaymakers were at the centre of a bizarre hostage crisis in southern Egypt last night, after they were kidnapped by a tour-guide trying to use them as bargaining chips in a custody battle with his estranged German wife. Officials say the four men were abducted near the ancient city of Luxor.

Police in the area initially said they had been lured to the nearby town of Esna, a popular stop-off for Nile cruise-ships. But by late yesterday it was not known where the hostages were being held.

The hostage-taker, armed with a pistol and mobile phone, was demanding the return of his two sons, aged 7 and 3, who are living with his wife after she won temporary custody of them in a German court in January. "It's extremely sensitive," one source said. "He's threatened to shoot them unless his demands are met."

The captor was negotiating by mobile phone in fluent German with the authorities in Berlin, where the foreign ministry set up a "crisis reaction centre". A spokesman for the ministry said the hostages were in good condition. "We are very worried because he seems desperate," said a source at the German embassy. "Unless he gives himself up, this could turn into a disaster."

The kidnapping has shocked many in Egypt. It is, a blow to the authorities, who have been trying hard to present the country as a safe holiday destination. Security in Luxor and other tourist destinations was tightened after the massacre by Islamic militants of over 50 holidaymakers ouside the temple of Hatshepsut in 1997. That was the last and most serious in a string of attacks on tourists, which devastated the local tourism industry, which had just begun to recover. The kidnapping around Luxor is the first security incident since the massacre.

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