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Page last updated at 21:20 GMT, Sunday, 28 September 2008 22:20 UK

Egypt tourist kidnappers 'killed'

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Sudanese officials say their forces have shot and killed six of the kidnappers who abducted a group of European tourists in Egypt last week.

Two other suspected kidnappers have been taken into custody, but the tourists themselves remain in captivity in Chad, the officials say.

The hostages - 11 tourists and eight Egyptian guides - were taken on 19 September and are said to be unharmed.

They include five Germans, five Italians and a Romanian.

A spokesman for Sudan's military said that the kidnappers had been killed following a high-speed desert chase.

The spokesman, Sawarmy Khaled, said the missing Europeans, who were abducted in south-western Egypt but thought to have been taken first to Sudan and then to Chad.

Leader 'dead'

Mr Khaled said the Sudanese forces were near the Libyan border when they encountered a white vehicle carrying eight armed men.

Gilf al-Kebir excursion
Gilf al-Kebir is a popular destination for adventurous tourists

"The armed forces called for it to stop, but they did not respond and there was pursuit in which six of the armed men were killed," he said.

He added that the group's leader, whom he identified as a Chadian named Bakhit, was among the dead.

He said the remaining two gunmen had been captured and had confessed to being involved in kidnapping the tourists and their guides, who were on desert safari.

The vehicle bore Egyptian registration plates and belonged to an Egyptian tourism company, Mr Khaled added.

The vehicle had been "full of weapons including RPGs" and documents from the Sudan Liberation Movement "about how to distribute the ransom when received".

There are several different factions of rebels in Sudan's Darfur region of the Sudan Liberation Movement.

The BBC's Amber Henshaw in Khartoum contacted the major ones, which denied involvement in the kidnappings.

The shootings come as negotiations continue for the release of the hostages.

The kidnappers have demanded that Germany take charge of payment of an $8.8m ransom. German officials have declined comment.

The tourists are being held by 35 other gunmen in the Tabbat Shajara region of Chad, Mr Khaled said.




SEE ALSO
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Country profile: Egypt
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