The US Embassy in Cairo announced that it was in close touch with Egyptian authorities about the case of two American tourists and their Egyptian tour guide were kidnapped in Nikhil, middle Sinai, on Friday afternoon.
On Twitter, the embassy said Egyptian authorities "are doing everything they can to bring about safe release of the American tourists."
Armed men led the tourists into the desert, demanding the release of two men, one of whom was convicted in a drug case and is serving 25 years in Borg el-Arab prison in Alexandria, an Egyptian security source said.
The source identified the lead kidnapper as Jermy Abu Masouh from al-Tarabin tribe. He said the kidnapper is demanding the release of his uncle Mosleh Abu Masouh, currently in jail after being caught in possession of a large quantity of drugs.
Security forces have contacted the tribal leaders to negotiate the release of the kidnapped, the source said. The kidnapper has previously struck deals with security forces, under which he was pardoned of several crimes.
Jermy confirmed in a phone call to security that the tourists had not been subjected to any violence. He said no negotiations will be made before the release of Mosleh Abu Masouh and Mahmoud Salama.
According to the security source, Jermy Abu Masouh said that Mosleh Abu Masouh and Mahmoud Salama were arrested two days ago based on “fabricated drug dealing charges.”
Jermy Abu Masouh also threatened to kidnap more tourists if his relatives were not released. He said the officers who fabricated the charges against the Bedouin should be brought to justice.
He said he will give security forces 24 hours before he starts beating or torturing the kidnapped.
There have been a string of tourist kidnappings in past months, which in many cases have resulted in a deal brokered by security forces for the tourists' release. In all cases, the kidnapped have been released without sustaining any physical harm.