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Bedouin kidnappers free 4 captives, Egyptian official says

From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, for CNN
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Mon March 19, 2012
Two Brazilian tourists who were kidnapped by Bedouin tribesmen in Egypt have been freed, according to the Brazilian Embassy in Egypt.
Two Brazilian tourists who were kidnapped by Bedouin tribesmen in Egypt have been freed, according to the Brazilian Embassy in Egypt.
  • NEW: All four kidnap victims were freed, Interior Ministry spokesman says
  • They were freed without the kidnappers' demands being met, officials add
  • Two Brazilians, their guide were taken in southern Sinai
  • The area has seen a rash of kidnappings in recent months

Editor's note: Read this story in Arabic.

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Two Brazilian tourists, their guide and a police officer who were kidnapped by Bedouin tribesmen in Egypt's southern Sinai Peninsula all have been freed, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Monday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Alaa Mahmoud on Sunday said that the tourist and their guide had been released. The whereabouts of the officer had been unclear.

Provincial officials said that an "unknown armed group" had stopped the tourists' bus near the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine's and taken the two Brazilians and the guide hostage, according to the state-run Egypt New Agency. That report did not mention a police officer being kidnapped.

The kidnappers then demanded the release of Bedouin prisoners jailed under longtime Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, as well as the cancellation of sentences handed down in absentia.

But a security official in southern Sinai said that the the tourists and their guide were released late Sunday without any of those demands being met, according to the official Egypt News Agency report. Instead, the kidnappers heeded calls from Bedouin tribal leaders to let them go free, said the official.

There was no immediate word on the status of the police officer who the Interior Ministry spokesman had also reported kidnapped.

The southern Sinai Peninsula has seen a rash of kidnappings in recent months, including the brief abduction of two American tourists in February and the seizure of two dozen Chinese workers and a translator in late January.

Kidnappings and daylight robberies have become increasingly common in the turbulent year since Mubarak's overthrow in February 2011, with several wealthy Egyptians among those targeted by hostage-takers demanding ransom.

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