Two Massachusetts tourists abducted in Egypt's mountainous Sinai region were freed on Monday after three days in captivity, the local head of state security told the Reuters news agency.
Egyptian authorities had sought help from local tribal leaders to mediate with a Bedouin tribesman who kidnapped Michel Louis, a Boston pastor, mother-of-two Lissa Alphonse of Everett, Massachusetts, and their Egyptian guide on Friday to protest the jailing of his uncle on drug charges.
The three were released “after successful negotiations with the mediation of sheikhs and senior tribal figures,” northern Sinai's head of security, Ahmed Bakr, told Reuters.
The tourists were taken to state security headquarters in Al-Arish, the main town in northern Sinai, said Bakr, who did not give details of the agreement that led to their release.
Reuters reported Massachusetts' two U.S. senators released statements expressing relief after spending the weekend in close contact with the State Department.
“What began as a sightseeing tour turned into an unimaginable nightmare for these Massachusetts families and thank G-d that nightmare is coming to an end,” said John Kerry, a Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Republican Senator Scott Brown said, “Everyone's prayers have been answered...this is an emotional day.”
A security source named the leader of the kidnapping as Germy Abu Masouh, a member of a prominent family within the Tarabin, the biggest Sinai Bedouin tribe in Egypt.
Abu Masouh tied the release of the hostages to that of his uncle, jailed in Alexandria after being found guilty of handling half a ton of drugs, the source said.
Sinai has seen a series of kidnappings over the past year. Abducted tourists have been rarely harmed so far and are usually released within 24 hours.
In January, a Bedouin man shot and killed a French tourist in the Sinai, in an apparent act of retribution after clashes with police.
Egyptian authorities have struggled to maintain stability in the Sinai since the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak last year.