Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
KHARTOUM - Sudanese forces were laying siege yesterday to a remote desert hideout where bandits have 19 people captive, including European tourists, but said they did not plan to storm the area.
The tourists, along with Egyptian drivers, guides and a guard, were snatched by masked gunmen on Friday during a desert safari to view prehistoric art around Gilf el-Kabir in southwestern Egypt and then taken to Sudan.
A Sudanese official said the hostages were alive and that negotiations were continuing with the kidnappers, who have reportedly demanded a ransom of up to R123million.
"Our aim is to help secure their release unharmed as quickly as possible," Ali Yousuf, director of protocol at the foreign ministry said.
Several elderly travellers, some in their 70s, are among the five Italians, five Germans and a Romanian being held in the desert, where daytime temperatures can hit 40 degrees Celsius.
"The hostages are all well, according to the information that we have," Yousuf said. "We are in constant communication with the Egyptian, German, Italian and Romanian authorities."
He said Germany was in contact with the kidnappers. Germany has not commented on its role beyond saying it has set up a crisis group.
An Egyptian security official, who asked not to be named, said he hoped the drama would be resolved "in a day or two."
Sudan said on Tuesday its forces "are besieging the area," a no-man's land straddling the Sudanese, Libyan and Egyptian borders. - Sapa-AFP