Sudan: 6 kidnappers of tourists killed

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gestures to pro-government demonstrators gathered outside a cabinet meeting, where they were protesting against the possibility that he could be indicted for crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Court, in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday, July 13, 2008. A prosecutor at the International Criminal Court is expected to seek an arrest warrant Monday charging the Sudanese President with orchestrating violence in Darfur that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead since 2003. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)
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KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- Six of the alleged kidnappers of a group of tourists were killed by the Sudanese army in a high speed chase across desert, but the missing Europeans are still being held in Chad, Sudan's military spokesman said Sunday.

File photo shows tourists in Egyptian desert.

Sawarmy Khaled told The Associated Press that Sudanese military forces were combing the Jebel Oweinat region near the Libyan border when they came upon a white sports utility vehicle carrying eight armed men.

"The armed forces called for it to stop, but they did not respond and there was pursuit in which six of the armed men were killed," he said, including the leader of the group, which he identified as a Chadian named Bakhit.

The remaining two gunmen were captured and they confessed to being involved in the kidnapping a week earlier of 11 European tourists and eight Egyptians doing a desert safari in southwest Egypt.

The tourists are being held by 35 other gunmen in the Tabbat Shajara region of Chad, Khaled added.

The tourists and the Egyptians were snatched Friday in a remote desert corner of southwestern Egypt. They include five Germans, five Italians and one Romanian. The Egyptians are drivers, guides and the owner of the tour company that organized the trip.

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The kidnappers are demanding a ransom, reportedly of up to $15 million. Germany has been negotiating with them but there has been no word on the progress of these contacts.

Until now, the negotiations were taking place through two phone calls a day between the tour company's owner and his German wife, who lives in Egypt, according to an Egyptian security official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the talks.

The wife has been staying at the German Embassy in Cairo, according to Italian press reports.

The Egyptian security official said Wednesday that German authorities had established direct contact with the kidnappers. The contacts were also reported by the Sudan Media Center, a news agency close to the Khartoum government.

Neither gave details on how the communications were taking place.