Eleven European tourists and their eight Egyptian guides, who were kidnapped in Egypt last Friday, have been moved into Libya by their kidnappers, according to the Sudanese government. The Associated Press (AP) reports the kidnappers and their hostages had been under surveillance in Sudan, where they were originally held, but relocated on Thursday.
The Egyptian government told AP that it had no information about the move to Libya, however, and Libya did not immediately comment on the report.
Mr. Youssef also said Khartoum now believes the kidnappers are Sudanese, rather than Egyptian. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Sudanese government claimed the kidnappers are tied to rebel groups in Darfur, but a rebel spokesman denied the charge, calling it "propaganda from the government of Sudan."
According to the BBC, Egyptian officials say the kidnappers are demanding several million dollars in ransom for the European tourists. The BBC notes that Gilf al-Kebir, which was featured in the 1996 film The English Patient, is near "chronic conflict areas" in Sudan and Chad, but is largely unpopulated and lacks a police presence.
The guides also said two groups of tourists were robbed by bandits earlier this year.
Concerns about the kidnapping's impact on the tourist trade may have led the Egyptian government to stifle press coverage of the event. The New York Times writes the kidnapping "at first raised fears of a potentially crippling blow to tourism, one of the main pillars of the Egyptian economy."
The Egyptian government's response to media coverage of the kidnapping has also highlighted Egypt's constraints on the press. The Middle East Times reports that Egyptian journalists, at first prohibited from reporting the kidnapping, feel the government was trying to "restrict the local press."
Menassat.com, a Middle East media news site, writes that journalists said the sudden implementation and reversal of the press ban is exemplary of the sorts of shackles the Egyptian government places on its press, the third such ban in two months.