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The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"The tour guide says he will not release them until his two young children... are brought back to Egypt"
 real 28k

Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 02:59 GMT
Kidnapped tourists freed unharmed
Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor
The kidnapper is described as a normally quiet tour guide
Four German tourists taken hostage in southern Egypt on Monday have been freed unharmed.

An Egyptian tour guide gave himself up and was taken into custody, police said. He had been holding the tourists hostage at a school in Karnak, near Luxor.

Earlier, the man had threatened to start killing the hostages unless he was granted custody of his two sons, who now live in Germany.

I don't object to the mother's custody of the children, I object to a German court deciding the fate of Egyptian children

The man who identified himself as Ibrahim Ali el-Sayyed Moussa, told a journalist who contacted him by telephone on Tuesday: "I have one solution only - either my children are returned to me or I die."

"I shall not die alone," he added. Asked if he meant he would kill the hostages, he said: "Yes."

But Mr Moussa has been quoted in Egyptian papers as describing the hostages as his "friends" who sympathised with him.

The four Germans, aged 25 to 27, were kidnapped in Luxor on Monday.

They were identified as Peter Nowotnick, Christoph Paning, Ralf Laue and Marco Wedekind.

Mr Wedekind, speaking on Mr Moussa's mobile phone, said he and the three other tourists were "fine and well-treated".

A German Government spokesman said the men had been tied up but were relatively well.

German wife

Mr Moussa, 45, was believed to have been armed with a gun and some sort of explosive device.

His German wife, Heike Ritter, took the two boys, now aged seven and three - to Germany more than a year ago.

Karnak Temple at Luxor
The kidnapping will be a blow to tourism
She also spoke to him by phone during the hostage drama.

Mr Moussa said he had not seen his sons for nine months, and accused the German Government of not wanting the situation resolved.

"I don't object to the mother's custody of the children, I object to a German court deciding the fate of Egyptian children," he said.

Colleagues of the tour guide described him as a normally quiet and calm man, who is popular with his customers.

Tourism hit

The kidnapping is the first security incident involving foreign tourists in Egypt since Muslim militants killed 58 foreign visitors in Luxor in 1997.

The tourism industry suffered heavy losses after the attack.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Cairo says the kidnapping will be a blow to the tourist industry, which has tried hard to present the country as a safe holiday spot.

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See also:

10 Mar 00 | Middle East
Swiss abandon Luxor massacre inquiry
17 Nov 98 | Middle East
Tourists return to Luxor
18 Nov 97 | World
Tourists massacred at temple
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