Kidnapping Shows Now's Not a Great Time to Visit Sinai

Reports of two U.S. tourists kidnapped in Egypt's Sinai peninsula have changed throughout the day, but the latest is that they've been released, after an initial report of their freedom proved false. Either way, the takeaway is that it's probably not a good time for a Red Sea vacation.

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Update (3:48 p.m. EDT): Finally, CNN reports the men have been released, this time quoting a U.S. State Department spokesman, who cited Egyptian officials. "The confirmation of their release came shortly after one of the men, Brandon Kutz, contradicted a statement by Gen. Ahmed Fawzi, secretary for the governor of South Sinai, who had told CNN the two men had been released and were on their way to a hotel with Egyptian security forces." So the guys are free, but it's still not clear what the terms of their release were. We're guessing they don't really care right about now.

Update (12:17 p.m. EDT): CNN is now reporting that the two men haven't been released, and that reports that they had were false. One of the men, 31-year-old Brandon Kutz, called the network and said they were being treated well but were still in the kidnappers' custody.

Update (9:48 a.m. EDT): Reuters and CNN are both now reporting the tourists were released safely, but neither has details of the terms of the release, including whether the tribesman arrested on drug charges was freed in return.

Original: The reports on two U.S. tourists kidnapped in Egypt's Sinai peninsula are all pretty thin, but even as negotiators have reportedly worked out a deal for the pair's release, the takeaway is that it's probably not a good time for a Red Sea vacation.

Bedouins stopped and abducted the two men, each in his early 30s, at gunpoint as they drove from Dahab to Nuweiba, both Red Sea resort towns. Reuters reported that police were negotiating for the men's release, and that the "Bedouin were seeking the release of one of their tribe who has been jailed in a drugs case." CNN's report of the deal says it's unclear whether the government had agreed to release the tribesman.

As The Associated Press' Ashraf Sweilem points out, over the past year, "Bedouins have been kidnapping tourists to pressure authorities to release their detained relatives or to improve basic services in their areas." Basic services like police, maybe? That would be ironic. But no, they want economic development. Some Bedouin turned to smuggling and kidnapping because they feel they've been left out of Sinai's tourism and mining booms, David Arnold explains in an excellent and in-depth Voice of America feature published Wednesday. On the plus side for the kidnapped Americans, they usually let their victims go unharmed.

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