CAIRO, Egypt — A group of kidnappers who abducted a 19-member European tour group during a desert safari moved their captives from Sudan to Libya on Thursday in a new complication to the week-old hostage ordeal, the Sudanese government said.
Sudanese troops "monitored" the kidnappers as they drove in three 4x4 vehicles from the Oweinat Mountain area in northwest Sudan and crossed the border into Libya, Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali Youssef told The Associated Press.
The kidnappers, believed to be desert tribesmen, are demanding a ransom, reportedly of up to $15 million, and Germany has been negotiating with them, but there has been no word on the progress of these contacts.
The Sudanese have been watching the group since it moved into Sudan soon after last Friday's abduction in Egypt but has not tried to capture them, fearing an assault would endanger the hostages, according to Youusef.
The kidnappers took their captives 10 miles inside Libyan territory on Thursday and are still on the move, Youssef said. Libyan authorities have been brought into the coordination between Egypt and Sudan on the abduction, he said, adding that he did not know the reason for the move.
The 11 European tourists and their eight Egyptian guides and drivers were kidnapped by gunmen while on a desert safari to Gilf al-Kebir, a remote desert plateau famed for its prehistoric cave drawings in the far southeast corner of Egypt, near the Libyan and Sudanese borders. The group included five Germans, five Italians and a Romanian _ and two of the Italians are in their 70s.
Borders in the harsh desert region _ days away from any inhabited settlements _ are largely unguarded, with only a wooden sign marking the frontier in some places.
Egyptian government spokesman Magdy Rady and Tourism Ministry officials said they had no information on the move to Libya. There was no immediate comment from Libya.
German officials only established direct contact with the kidnappers on Wednesday, according to Egyptian and Sudanese officials. For days before that, negotiations were taking place through two phone calls a day between the Egyptian owner of the tour company that organized the safari _ who was among those kidnapped _ and his German wife, who lives in Egypt.
Youssef said it appeared the kidnappers were Sudanese, based on their accents in the communications with the Germans. Earlier Sudan said it believed they were Egyptians, though Egypt denied that.
But the kidnappers' identity remains unclear. The Gilf al-Kabir region is uninhabited but it is a crossroads for smugglers, including drug traffickers, most of whom are from desert tribes in surrounding areas. Many of those tribes spread across the Libyan, Sudanese and Egyptian borders.
The area is also accessible to the conflict-torn regions of eastern Chad and Sudan's Darfur region, where armed groups often engage in banditry and vehicle hijackings.
P.O. Box 3867
Skype ID : Kayisa66