SINGAPORE: Armed gunmen ambushed a Singaporean tour group in Egypt’s Sinai and kidnapped the tour leader.
The incident happened on Friday.
Singaporean Vincent Toh was released after eight hours.
Fresh from his ordeal, Mr Toh told Channel NewsAsia from El—Arish, which is on the Mediterranean coast of northern Sinai, that he had volunteered to follow the armed men when it hit him, what was happening.
Speaking from his hotel room in El—Arish on Saturday morning, Mr Vincent Toh said he was leading a group of about 20 Singaporeans on a church group trip.
Mr Toh, who works with a church organisation, said he had visited Sinai many times.
Sinai is a popular pilgrimage site for Christians.
Mr Toh said the group’s bus was stopped by armed men while they were travelling from Sinai to Cairo.
"We were stopped by two vehicles. They were carrying a type of gun. For the safety of the group, I went with them. They came up the bus to get some people down. I volunteered because I’m leading the group, you see. They tied me and drove me away. I don’t know where they drove me to."
Mr Toh said a local guide was with them on the bus but was helpless to act.
He said he was held captive for about eight hours.
But even upon his release, he said his abductors did not say much to him.
"They just said Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! In fact, I was just following their instructions. They didn’t take my things," he said.
Reports quoted Egyptian security officials as saying the armed gunmen are a group of Bedouin tribesmen demanding the release of one of their members arrested for possessing drugs.
Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said the gunmen abducted Mr Toh but did not harm the other Singaporeans, who arrived safely in Cairo.
Mr Toh said: "They saw me being kidnapped, so I think they’re very scared. I hope they know about this — that I’m very safe at the moment."
A tour group member, who did not want to be named, told Channel NewsAsia they’re all relieved: "We are going back as a group without leaving anyone behind."
The Foreign Affairs Ministry said Mr Toh was released with the help of the Egyptian authorities.
A staff from the Singapore Embassy was sent to accompany Mr Toh from El—Arish to Cairo.
The ministry added that in view of the current situation in the Sinai peninsula, Singaporeans should avoid any overland travel to the area.
Most travel agencies Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they do not conduct trips to Sinai at this time, as the weather gets too hot.
They added peak travel is usually between November to March.
CTC Travel said it took about 300 people on tours during the last peak period — making up about 10 groups.
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