Kidnapped Korean Christians freed in Egypt

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Kidnapped Korean Christians freed in Egypt

Three Koreans were freed Saturday one day after being kidnapped in the Sinai Peninsula by Bedouin tribesmen who sought the release of fellow tribes people from Egyptian captivity.

An Egyptian tour guide, abducted from a tour bus with the Koreans near the St. Catherine monastery on the Sinai Peninsula Friday, was also freed.

The four arrived at the Catherine Plaza Hotel around 9:40 p.m. Egypt time.

“We were not assaulted or treated badly,” said Pastor Lee Min-song, 53, one of the freed Koreans. “We are all well.”

The other two freed Koreans are Lee Jong-dal, 62, and Mo Jong-mun, 59.

The Koreans were taken by armed tribesmen while on their way to the St. Catherine monastery as part of a 10-day pilgrimage to Egypt, Israel and Jordan.

Lee said his group will continue the pilgrimage as scheduled before coming back to Seoul Friday.

He thanked the Korean government and people for their efforts.

“I heard that negotiations were going well and we would soon be freed,” he said, speaking of their time in captivity.

The Korean government had asked Cairo to help win the release of the captives soon after their abduction, and the Sinai governor had contacted the chief tribesman asking for their release.

The Seoul government raised their alert on travel to the Sinai Peninsula from level two to three, one notch shy of a full travel ban.

Kidnappings of foreigners have taken place in Egypt in recent months amid civil demonstrations and political uncertainty after the fall of the decades-old authoritarian Mubarak regime last year, crippling the Egyptian tourism industry.

The kidnappers had demanded the release of a 29-year-old tribesman detained for the armed robbery of a bank on the Sinai Peninsula, officials here said.

Korean ambassador to Egypt Yoon Jong-gon said via telephone he did not know details of the negotiations between the Egyptian government and the tribesmen.

“I understand the Egyptian government agreed to positively consider the release of the detained Bedouin on condition that the Korean captives were released,” another official said, asking for anonymity.

One of the captives said they were treated well. Yonhap

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