S'porean tour guide safely home after kidnapping ordeal in Egypt

THE tour guide, who was kidnapped for eight hours in Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Friday, is safely back in Singapore along with the rest of the group.

Mr Vincent Toh, 44, headed for his wife beautician Christine Kee to embrace her the moment he arrived at Changi Airport at about 3pm on Sunday, said news reports.

Wearing a black cap, a cheerful Mr Toh said: "I'm very happy. Thank you for your concern."

The couple exchanged few words but smiles of relief were on their faces.

On Friday, Mr Toh had offered himself as a hostage to three armed Bedouin men when they wanted to kidnap a few members of the Singaporean tour group of 20 from Queenstown Chinese Methodist Church. They were there on a tour of biblical destinations, including to Jerusalem.

He was leading the group from Sinai to Cairo when two vehicles with men armed with machine guns and rifles intercepted their tour bus last Friday, ordering them to open their doors. 

After the gunmen had failed to let him and a couple out of the bus, Mr Toh volunteered to go with them as a hostage.

He said that he was punched, tied up and covered with a carpet and then driven to an undisclosed location. 

"The biggest worry was that they would start firing. Plus, I could see that they were already feeling very tense," said Mr Toh in a statement.

"My only concern running through my mind was for my wife."

The armed men wanted to exchange him for one of their tribesmen arrested for drug possession.

Mr Toh said he spent two hours in the tied up in the vehicle and his hands were numb. When he was allowed to get out, he had no idea where he was and he could only see desert all around.

He told The Straits Times that he was told to speak to the Egyptian police over the phone and had told them his nationality, name and of his kidnapping.

 Mr Toh said there were six men in total and they travelled another two hours at high speed, stopped and waited. His captors were constantly on the phone. He also said they gave him a glass of water and dinner.

Eventually, he was told to get into a truck. "It felt like we were backtracking - my heart did a leap of joy," said Mr Toh.

But just before the vehicle stopped, a gun was held to his head.

"I dared not move an inch", he said.

Mr Toh was finally released and driven away by local police on Saturday at 12.15am.

 Speaking to reporters, Mr Toh said in Mandarin: "I'm very happy to be back. The embassy in Cairo handled everything very well.  It was a great help to us."

Within an hour of Mr Toh's abduction, the embassy was informed about Mr Toh's situation and they alerted their Egyptian contacts, who in turn, made quick and swift contact with the kidnappers to negotiate for his release.

Though seemingly tired, Mr Toh said optimistically: "Basically, we can still go there for holidays. But you have to be careful."

maryanns@sph.com.sg



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