Five Germans and five Italians who were part of a 19-member tourist group kidnapped in Egypt and taken by their abductors on a dash through the Sahara Desert returned to their home countries yesterday.
The Italian tourists arrived at Turin’s Caselle airport, and the Germans and a Romanian woman who lives in southwestern Germany touched down several hours later at Berlin’s Tegel airport.
The tourists and their eight Egyptian drivers were rescued by troops in helicopters from a barren wilderness just inside Chad, Egyptian officials have said, but details of the operation were not clear.
The Italians said they had been robbed at gunpoint, but were never physically harmed throughout their 10-day ordeal.
“They attacked us with guns ... they took everything. They made us kneel on the ground at gunpoint and then took us away,” Italian tourist Walter Barotto told SKY TG24 at the airport.
In Germany, the tourists waved to cameras as they exited the plane, but made no comments to the media. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the group thanked officials for the intense efforts to secure their release.
German special forces had been on hand in Egypt to provide backup to the Egyptians if needed, but did not take part in the rescue, the Foreign Ministry said.
Some Egyptian officials spoke of a gunbattle with the kidnappers that killed several of the gunmen, but there was no official confirmation.
The brother of one of the freed Egyptians in the group said the kidnappers abandoned their captives in the desert and fled shortly before the rescue operation.
“The first days we, I mean us women especially, kept our heads down, with a veil — this was our own choice, it seemed the most appropriate behavior — we didn’t look for any contact,” said one of the Italians, Giovanna Quaglia. “But I must say we were never subjected to physical violence.”
The German tourists were identified only as a 56-year-old man and his 60-year-old wife, a 69-year-old woman and two men aged 37 and 65.
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