Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Libya yesterday became involved in the kidnapping crisis involving the abduction of 19 tourists last Friday from an area in south Egypt.
Authoritative Libyan sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Tripoli has sent a security reconnaissance team to the borders areas with Egypt and Sudan to collect information about the location of the hostages. Italian sources pointed out that the solution is now in the hands of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi while Germany stressed that uncertainty continues to surround the fate of the 19 tourists, among them 11 Europeans. Ambassador Ali Yusuf, the acting Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sudanese troops are positioned very close to the kidnappers and said: “Our forces see them as they move from one site to another. But they have not intervened…as per the agreement reached by the parties concerned with the management of the crisis.” He added that the confirmed information indicates there are four kidnappers only and not 20 as previously reported and reiterated that their identities were not determined as of yesterday” but there are many signs indicating they are elements from one of the armed movements in Darfur Province.” Yusuf went on to say that the “kidnappers and hostages are now entrenched inside Libya’s southeastern borders, specifically in the triangle linking the Sudanese-Egyptian-Libyan borders” and added that a German team is in charge of negotiations with the kidnappers, noting that these had not achieved any result as of yesterday.
On their part, authoritative Libyan sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Libya has sent a security reconnaissance team to the borders area to collect information. They said the Libyan authorities informed Egypt and Sudan that it located the site inside Libyan territories where the kidnappers moved to with the hostages and pointed out that there is Libyan-Egyptian coordination to persuade the kidnappers to end the operation and release the hostages without the need for any military intervention. The sources revealed that Libya informed Italy, Germany, and Romania, the countries to which the 11 tourists belong, that it confirmed the group’s (kidnappers and hostages) entry into its territories earlier the night before yesterday. No official Libyan confirmation of the kidnappers and hostages’ arrival has been issued so far while the official Libyan media ignored the report and the Foreign Ministry also did not issue any press statement about it.
A Libyan diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country would issue a statement in the next few hours on this issue while officials in the Italian and German Embassies in the Libyan capital Tripoli refused to answer several attempts by Asharq Al-Awsat for comment on the arrival of the hostages and kidnappers in Libyan territories. But another Libyan source thought the kidnappers’ entry into Libyan territories unlikely saying their entry would mean their death. The Libyan source, who is a security official in the southeastern area, told Asharq Al-Awsat: Any foreigner who infiltrates and enters Libyan territories is definitely dead. They (the kidnappers) know that Libya does not negotiate in such matters and we are not concerned with their demands. Relatives of the Egyptian hostages are feeling pessimistic, especially with the official Egyptian silence which prefers to keep silent until the hostages’ release. Hussein Abdul-Salam, brother in law of Maylud Abbas, one of the kidnapped drivers, said: We have nothing but prayers. There is no news and we do not know what has happened to them. We can only pray and cry. They have been detained for one week and we still do not know the reason for the delay in releasing them after the talk about their imminent release.
Official Egyptian sources asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat which preferred to remain unidentified that the kidnappers are Sudanese and belong to the Darfur rebels.
Official Italian circles are also keeping silent about the crisis and some sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the solution “is now in the hands of Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qadhafi and the kidnappers might have demanded weapons and money in return for releasing the hostages but the contacts are cut off.” The chairman of the foreign relations committee in the Italian Senate met the day before yesterday with the Egyptian ambassador to Italy to discuss the issue but things changed yesterday and new contacts were started with the Libyan authorities. In Berlin, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman stressed yesterday that there was no new information and uncertainty prevails. He added that the “ministry’s crisis management council is working around the clock and contacting all the concerned parties in order to release the hostages.”