Thursday, March 28, 2013

Egypt: Update--Israeli, Norwegian Tourists Released by Bedouin Gunmen After Being Held for 4 Days

As a follow-up to my recent posting, Nazareth resident Arab-Israeli Amir Omar Hassan, 26, a student at Ben-Gurion University, and Norwegian pediatrician Dr. Ingvild Selvik Ask, 32, who were kidnapped on March 22, by Bedouin gunmen in the Sinai Peninsula, were released late on Tuesday (March 26).

It is unknown as to how the Arab-Israeli and the Norwegian couple came to be traveling together, but apparently they were visiting the resort of Taba on the border with Israel, and Dahab further south when they were abducted by six gunmen, believed to be Bedouin tribesmen.

COMMENT: Friday's kidnapping did not appear to be politically motivated, although those close to the case say that the kidnappers wanted to exchange the hostages for jailed relatives, and in fact declined an offer of money from the Norwegian Embassy.

In recent months, the kidnapping of foreigners in the Sinai have been occurring with increasing frequency, although most kidnap victims are well-treated, cared for and not harmed, although their schedules have been disrupted from time to time.

As I have emphasized of late, the government of Mohamed Morsi seems to care less if foreigners are regularly abducted in the Sinai, although they have endeavored to help them when abducted.

That being said, The New Egypt has not taken steps to place armed police on tour buses in order to discourage continued abductions.  

The two kidnapped tourists decided to share a taxi to travel to Dahab. Both planned to vacation in the Sinai despite extensive warnings by Israel's Counter-terrorism Bureau. 

On March 7, Bedouin kidnapped a British couple, only to release them within hours after talks with security officials. The Britons had been abducted from a bank in a town as they headed towards the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Both Amir Omar Hassan, 26, and Norwegian pediatrician, Dr. Ingvild Selvik Ask, 32, spoke to reporters upon arrival at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport on Tuesday, but offered few details as to how they came to be traveling together.

As I have said most recently, travel in the Sinai Peninsula is discouraged for foreign tourists on the basis that it is unknown when the next abduction will occur.

Those initiating travel inside Israel would be well-served by following the advice of the Israeli government and not traveling in the Sinai.