Their 10-day ordeal highlights risks to adventure travelers and their guides in remote Egypt due instability in neighboring countries.
As the exact details of their rescue were still emerging, 11 foreign tourists and eight Egyptians walked free Monday afternoon following a 10-day hostage drama that took them from remotest Egypt, into Sudan, and possibly to Libya.
While the kidnappers' identities have yet to be released, at least six of them appear to have been killed in a raid that possibly involved Egyptian, Sudanese, and European forces. All of the abductees appeared to be in good health.
The rescue ends an ordeal that highlights new risks for adventure tourists in the western Egyptian desert due to the instability in neighboring Chad and Sudan.
"There does not seem to be a lot of information on organized crime in the region, although it is on the rise," says Abdul Moneim al-Said, head of the Egyptian al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
He says that the area is ripe for such kinds of crimes, given the ongoing conflicts, like the one in Darfur.
"It is a brand of violence that is similar to the on-going piracy in the horn of Africa and the Red Sea, and the increasing human trafficking. The desert in this area is wide. It's a wasteland that is convenient for such groups to organize themselves and the current failing states feed into those kinds of crimes," he says.