Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A Terrifying Vacation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The resolved case of the abducted 11 Western tourists in Egypt was closer to a drama than reality due to the ambiguity that surrounded this saga which left it open to speculation, particularly the conflicting official statements released by the countries involved.

What is shocking is that these kidnappers were free to move around with their captives between three or four different countries; today they are in Egypt, tomorrow in Sudan, the next day Libya, then back to Sudan, which Libya denies, while there was even talk that they were in Chad, while official statements say that they are under observation, as they move from one place to the next.

A member of the German delegation negotiating with the kidnappers said that ‘the armed group deliberately moves the hostages between Egypt, Libya, and the Sudan on a daily basis’ adding that last Tuesday the hostages were in Egypt, and were then transferred to the Sudan on Wednesday and Libya on Thursday, while on Friday morning they were again returned to Sudan, not to mention rumors of them being taken into Chadian territory.

Most surprisingly of all in this story are the official statements from the countries involved urging for the ransom payment to the kidnappers, which amounts to 8.8 million dollars. The kidnapping of these tourists was unprecedented, as if it were a part of an adventure vacation package that the tourists paid for.

The outstanding question here though is; how did these kidnappers travel by land between the borders of three or four different countries with hostages in tow, while simultaneously negotiating with officials? What is the answer to these gaps in security, especially considering the potential exploitation of them by terrorists?

If these kidnappers could move easily and freely over the borders of countries in only a matter of days, what about the arms and drug smugglers that can do the same with such ease?

An important questions and a perplexing Arab reality, particularly since now we hear regularly about ships being hijacked in the Red Sea by Somali pirates, and news of ransoms being paid to them to free the ships which they seized.

Security agencies in particular are aware that one of the most important ways terrorism is financed is through the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and even diamonds, as well as money laundering and others illegal operations.

Therefore the kidnapping of these European tourists is far more serious than it seems at first glance, it highlights the gravity of the situation surrounding the land borders between Arab countries, and if we are to tread carefully, it sheds light on the reality of the state of these borders, and the seriousness of their neglect.

It is not just Egypt, but most Arab countries who also face this danger. One of the gravest problems in the Yemen is that certain areas are outside of government control, and so have become safe havens for weapons training, smuggling, and other illegal activities.

From this position, the crisis of this tourist kidnapping, and the Somali pirates who went so far as to appoint themselves an official spokesman, has been a catalyst to encouraging serious debate as to the question of certain geographical regions in Arab countries, and the realty of their land and sea borders. This is particularly important since we can now see the damage done to the Arab world from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf as a result of terrorism. Most of these terrorist operations were a result of careful planning, large funds, and weapons and explosives that were always smuggled across the borders!