Bedouins free Singapore tourist in Egypt: official

CAIRO - Singaporean Vincent Toh was leading 20 Singaporean tourists in Egypt's Sinai peninsula when he was kidnapped by Bedouins on Friday.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Saturday, Toh has since been released, and is unharmed.

A source told news agency AFP that "He was handed over to the security forces".

The Bedouins were demanding the release of one of their tribesmen arrested for possession of drugs, security officials said.

The freeing of the tourist, one of a group of 20 visiting Sinai, was confirmed by Egypt's official news agency MENA, which said it came after "efforts by the security forces in coordination with the chiefs of tribes."

The Straits Times (ST) reported that the tourists, including Mr Toh, were travelling overland from Sinai to Cairo when a group of armed men intercepted them.

While Mr Toh was abducted, the remaining Singaporeans were unharmed and arrived safely in Cairo, said ST.

Mr Toh was released several hours later through the help of Egyptian authorities.

He is currently staying at a hotel in El Arish. He will be accompanied by a staff from the Singapore embassy from El Arish to Cairo, reported the paper.

The tourist was abducted in the central Sinai where several foreigners have been kidnapped over the past months by Bedouins demanding the release of tribesmen they feel have been unjustly detained.

All of the previous hostages were later released unhurt.

Two American tourists kidnapped near the Red Sea resort of Dahab were released last month after less than 24 hours in captivity.

Bedouins living in the Sinai, where most of Egypt's luxury resorts are concentrated, had long been marginalised under the regime of Hosni Mubarak and the security situation there has been tense since his ouster in February last year.

Several Bedouins were severely punished between 2004 and 2008 for attacks against resorts on the Red Sea.

The situation in Sinai has been made more difficult by the limited presence of the army as a result of the demilitarisation of the area under the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

A pipeline running through northern Sinai which supplies gas to Israel and Jordan has faced repeated sabotage attacks over the past year.

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