Kidnapped European tourists released in Egyptian desert

The European hostages kidnapped in the Egyptian desert were abruptly released by their captors and allowed to drive away in a single vehicle, one of their Egyptian drivers said Tuesday.

Hassan Abdel Hakim, 45, together with the other eight Egyptian drivers and guides from the ill-fated desert expedition was being examined at the Maadi military hospital in southern Cairo following the 10-day hostage drama.

The decision to release the hostages came after a phone call, he said.

"They told all the Egyptians to stand in one line and they cocked their weapons, and at that moment we thought we were dead," he told The Associated Press. "Suddenly the man told us to take one car leave - there were 19 of us packed into one car, some on the roof."

"We left everything, we didn't even have room for a spare tire. We only had a GPS to go in the right direction until we met the Egyptian special forces around Eight Bells," he said referring to a defunct airfield in southwestern Egypt.

They started off at 8 p.m. and were met by Egyptian forces at 11 a.m. the next day after driving some 200 miles (300 kilometers), he said.

Eleven European tourists and 8 Egyptians were kidnapped by gunmen on Sept. 19 and held for 10 days. Initially there had been reports they were freed in a gun battle involving Egyptian, Italian and German forces.

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