Two American tourists were kidnapped Wednesday evening in Egypt's lawless Sinai Peninsula. They were reportedly driving north from the Red Sea resort town of Dahab when they were taken by armed Bedouin tribesmen who are now demanding the release of another tribesman arrested Tuesday with a large quantity of drugs . The American embassy in Cairo confirmed the kidnapping to ABC News and said they were working closely with the Egyptian authorities to secure the men's release, but declined to give further details due to privacy concerns.
Colonel Majdi Musa, the head of police intelligence in the Sinai, told the semi-official Al Ahram newspaper that that the two men were born in 1981 and confirmed the names and passport numbers which had been reported earlier.
The father of one of the men asked ABC News not to report the names of the men. "We're hoping and praying for their safe return and it's just too early to know any further details," the father said, adding that the embassy is working hard for their release.
Egyptian reports said the men are being held in a mountainous area called Ras al-Shaytan, translated as "head of the devil." They were driving from Dahab to Nuweiba when their minibus was stopped. They were later reportedly then transferred to two cars, according to the driver who said the tribesmen told them not to worry, that they had demands of the Egyptian government.
The kidnappers are demanding the release of a man named Eid Suleiman Atiwai, arrested with a large quantity of drugs on Tuesday.
Lawlessness has risen dramatically in the Sinai, particularly since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. Kidnappings by Bedouins have become more frequent, they also traffic in guns and drugs. Al Qaeda is known to operate in the remote region, though they are not believed to have been involved with this kidnapping.
Two American women were kidnapped in early February in the Sinai, they were released six hours later after negotiations between Egyptian authorities and the kidnappers.