US & Canada

US hostages freed by Bedouin in Egypt's Sinai

Newly freed US tourists Michel Louis and Lissa Alphonse sit at the North Sinai security headquarters in the Egyptian city of El-Arish 16 July 2012
Image caption Michel Louis and LisSa Alphonse were moved to Sinai security headquarters after being released

Two Americans and their Egyptian translator have been released three days after they were abducted in Egypt's Sinai peninsula.

Egyptian security officials say Reverend Michel Louis, Lissa Alphonse and Haytham Ragab were freed by hostage-taker Jirmy Abu-Masuh.

The three were taken off a bus on a road between Cairo and Mount Sinai on Friday during a church trip.

It was the latest abduction to take place in the area over the past year.

So far, kidnapped tourists have been released within days.

The tourists were freed "after successful negotiations with the mediation of sheikhs and senior tribal figures", northern Sinai's head of security, Ahmed Bakr, told Reuters news agency.

'Lamb dinners'

Mr Abu-Masuh originally said he would hold the hostages until his uncle was released from prison. His uncle is said by officials to be serving a 15-day sentence for drug possession.

But Mr Abu-Masuh, a member of a Bedouin tribe, alleges his relative was arrested for refusing to pay police a bribe.

He told the Associated Press on Monday that he freed the hostages on Monday after officials promised they would consider releasing his uncle, adding the Americans had nothing to do with the dispute.

Two intelligence officers went to meet with Mr Abu-Masuh on Friday and on Sunday, the hostage-taker told the Associated Press. He relocated his three hostages during those meetings.

Earlier, a senior Egyptian official told US media that the negotiators had rejected his demand.

Mr Louis, pastor at a Haitian-American church in Massachusetts, had ventured into Egypt while on a yearly missionary trip to Israel, according to his son. Ms Alphonse is a parishioner at another American church.

"We're in good spirits because we know the God that we serve is in control of the matter," Jean Louis said during a press conference before his father was released.

The younger Mr Louis said they were concerned that their father did not have his diabetes medicine.

Mr Abu-Mashu told the AP that security officials would have to help get the medicine to Mr Louis, but added that he was treating them as "guests" by giving them tea, coffee and a traditional lamb dinner.

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