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“The issue isn’t Jirmy’s alone, it’s the issue of all Bedouins. Among them are good people who pray. The government needs to resolve their problems. From what I saw they live a tough life and have nothing to lose,” Ragab said.

Louis and Alphonse were going to cross into Israel to join the rest of their tour group and continue their planned tour of the Holy Land before returning to the United States at the end of the week, Ragab said. The two Americans declined to talk to the AP by phone.

Egyptian officials made clear earlier Monday that they would not bend to Abu-Masuh’s demands. Officials and heads of tribes met with him for several hours Monday before an agreement to release the hostages was reached, according to officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

The two Americans, on a tour of the Holy Land, had been heading from Cairo to the 6th century St. Catherine’s Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai, said to be the site where Moses received the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments.

Abu-Masuh, 32, earlier told the AP that he had stopped their tour bus and ordered them off, along with Ragab to assist with translation, as a way to force his uncle’s release.

Throughout the ordeal, Louis‘ family was concerned that the 61-year-old pastor was unable to take his diabetes medication with him when he got off the bus. His family said he takes natural medication, not insulin.

The Bedouins of the sparsely populated peninsula have long-running tensions with the government in Cairo and with the security forces in particular. Security officials say some Bedouin are involved in smuggling of drugs and migrants endemic to the peninsula.

The Bedouin, in turn, complain of state discrimination in the development of their region. Bedouin and Egyptian rights groups say the security forces are responsible for many abuses. Police hunting fugitives have staged mass arrests to pressure families to hand over their relatives. They frequently enter homes by force and detain women — particularly provocative acts in conservative Bedouin society.

There are also fears of an Islamic militant presence in the Sinai, where militants carried out a string of suicide bombings against tourist resorts in the mid-2000s. Israel says militants in Sinai are behind cross-border attacks into its territory in recent years.

Abu-Masuh said his uncle had been stopped and harassed on his way to the coastal city of Alexandria last week. When officials saw he was from Sinai, they harassed his uncle even more, Abu-Masuh said. He said his 62-year-old uncle, who raised him after his father died, suffers from back and heart problems as well as diabetes.

Officials said Abu-Masuh’s uncle was detained on Saturday for 15 days pending investigation for alleged possession of drugs.

Egyptian security officials were in a tight spot with the latest abduction, unwilling to free the hostages by force and risk a violent confrontation with the captor’s Tarbeen tribe. Any escalation with tribes there could lead to more abduction along the popular tourist route.

Batrawy reported from Cairo. AP writers Denise Lavoie in Boston and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.