- Associated Press - Monday, July 16, 2012

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Two American tourists and their Egyptian guide who were abducted by a Bedouin in Egypt‘s Sinai Peninsula last week were released unharmed on Monday after negotiations with security officials and tribal leaders.

Rev. Michel Louis, 61, and 39-year-old Lissa Alphonse, both Boston-area residents, had been kidnapped from a bus on Friday along with their guide, Haytham Ragab, on a Sinai road by a Bedouin who was demanding the release of his uncle, who had been detained by Egyptian police on suspicion of drug possession.

The kidnapper, Jirmy Abu-Masuh, told AP that he had handed the three over to security officials near the northern Sinai city of el-Arish on Monday after he was promised that authorities were working on his uncle’s release.

“We are a people of mercy and they don’t have anything to do with this,” Abu-Masuh said, referring to the Americans. The three released captives later appeared at a police station in the northern Sinai city of el-Arish.

In Boston’s Dorchester section, where Louis lives, about 10 family members and friends celebrated the news on the porch of his home, hugging and chanting “hallelujah.”

“We are in joy after receiving such a message and we believe in God and let me tell you, He did not let us down,” Louis‘ oldest son, the Rev. Jean Louis, said outside the house before breaking down in tears and being led back inside. He said he wanted to talk to his father and his mother, who was with her husband on the tour bus but was not abducted.

“I want to hear my father. I want to hear my mother,” he said.

Several joyful parishioners gathered nearby at the Presbyterian chuch where the elder Louis is the pastor.

“We are all so happy and we give all the glory to God. Everyone has been so worried, but we had faith in Christ that God will deliver him,” said parishioner Roseline Inozil-Camille. “We just missed him so much. He’s a man of God.”

The abduction illustrated a broader breakdown of security in the Sinai, a key destination in Egypt‘s vital tourism industry, where lawlessness has risen since last year’s ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

Relations between the Bedouin and authorities have long been tumultuous, with Bedouin complaining of discrimination by the government and abuses against them by security forces.

Under the Mubarak regime’s tight hold, the disputes very rarely spilled over to effect tourists. However, this year has seen a string of kidnappings of tourists, usually by Bedouin trying to wrest concessions from authorities or the release of jailed relatives. In most cases, captives have been released unhurt after a few days.

During their captivity, the two Americans and their guide were kept at Abu-Masuh’s home in the harsh mountain terrain of central Sinai, and given tea and food, including at one point a roast lamb, according to Abu-Masuh and the guide, Ragab.

“We were treated just like they treat their own,” Ragab, 28, told AP by phone after their release. “But we were under emotional pressure. Life for the Bedouins is tough.”

He said he and the two Americans spoke a lot with Abu-Masuh about his uncle — who Abu-Masuh says was being held because he refused to pay a bribe — and about the problems of Bedouin in general.

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