clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Egyptian tour guide surrenders; German tourists freed unharmed

LUXOR, Egypt — An Egyptian tour guide who had seized four German tourists hostage in a desperate bid to end a child custody case walked out of the standoff and into police custody Thursday. His captives were freed unharmed.

When Ibrahim Ali el-Sayyed Moussa descended from his second-floor apartment before dawn — apparently to surrender — police staked out on the ground floor grabbed him, pinned his arms and took him away, said a witness, Moussa's landlord, Mahdi el-Adil.

El-Adil said Moussa, who was talking on a mobile phone when he was seized, appeared surprised to find police in the building — perhaps thinking they were farther away. He tried only briefly to resist, el-Adil said. Police then freed the hostages from Moussa's apartment.

A police official at the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity, said only that Moussa had freed the hostages and surrendered peacefully after a standoff that lasted more than three days. He said doctors examined the hostages and found them to be unharmed.

Hours before, Moussa, 45, had told The Associated Press that he was ready to give up and said he regretted earlier threatening to kill his hostages unless his German wife brought the couple's two sons back from Germany.

"It was just talking to attract attention. I don't approve of violence in any form. I am sorry that I forgot that I was a human being for a moment," he said, speaking by mobile phone.

"Frankly, I am sorry about what I've done. But at least a lot of people have heard what I had to say and realized that an injustice has been done to me," said Moussa. "I am a father. What crime did I commit to be deprived of my children?"

At about 2:30 a.m., a man was seen being led to a police van in a residential neighborhood near the ancient Karnak temple in the modern tourist city of Luxor.

Police did not allow reporters any closer to the scene. The freed hostages' whereabouts were not made public.

Police said Moussa's German wife, whom he married in 1991, returned to her country with their two sons, aged 7 and 3, a year and a half ago following a marital dispute. Moussa also has a teen-age daughter from a previous marriage who lives with him in Egypt, according to police.

Moussa kidnapped the four Germans Monday near Luxor, about 280 miles south of Cairo. He was reportedly armed with a handgun and an explosive device and holding his hostages at his home just south of Luxor, a major tourist attraction with its Nile-side pharaonic temples and the nearby Valley of the Kings complex where Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered.

In an interview Tuesday, Moussa had threatened to kill his hostages if his children were not returned.

Before his surrender, Moussa, who speaks fluent German, said Wednesday he waited hours in vain for a response by phone to his demands from German government officials.

In Berlin Thursday, a Foreign Office spokesman said no concessions were made by the German side to secure the release of the four hostages.He declined to say where Moussa's wife and their sons live in Germany.

Asked about reports that he and the four Germans staged the hostage-taking situation to bring back his sons, Moussa said: "This was not arranged. It happened suddenly. It is possible that I got the idea from one of them ... one of them suggested it (the hostage-taking) and thought that a phone call could move the issue."

The four Germans, aged 25 to 27, were staying in Luxor at the Geddis Hotel, according to owner Ehab Geddis. Geddis last saw them Monday morning. They were supposed to check out Tuesday.

Hagag Hafez, a hotel receptionist, identified the men as: Peter Novotnick, Christoph Paing, Ralf Lane and Marco Wedekind. Their names were taken from their passports, Hafez said.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had discussed the situation on the telephone Wednesday night, officials said.