Tourists kidnapped in southern Egypt

Masked bandits have kidnapped European tourists who were on a desert safari in southern Egypt, 250 miles south of Aswan, according to published reports.

The Times of London reported that the kidnappers were believed to be heading for neighboring Sudan with their hostages -- five Italians, five Germans and a Romanian. The tourists, along with local guides and drivers, were reportedly traveling in off-road vehicles near near Gilf el-Kabir, an area known for ancient cave paintings. In total, at least 15 people were kidnapped.

Egypt's tourism minister said the abduction was a criminal rather than a terrorist act, and said negotiations were under way for the captives' release. The kidnappers were said to have asked for a ransom of up to $6 million, reported the Times.

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