Egyptian officials plan talks to free US hostages abducted in Sinai

Egyptian officials are preparing for negotiations to secure the release of two Americans abducted in the mountainous Sinai region, enlisting Bedouin tribal leaders as mediators, a security source said on Sunday.

A Bedouin tribesman, Germy Abu Masouh, said he had kidnapped a U.S. pastor, an American woman and their Egyptian tour guide in central Sinai on Friday in protest at the jailing of his uncle on drug charges, according to one security source.

Abu Masouh is from a prominent family within the Tarabin, the biggest Sinai Bedouin tribe in Egypt.

Bedouin often take tourists hostage near popular Red Sea resourts in southern Sinai but foreigners rarely venture far north into the peninsula's isolated centre.

"A high-level security delegation has been formed in addition to some tribal sheikhs to enter direct negotiations with the kidnappers to end the crisis in a peaceful manner," the security source said.

The source did not say when the talks might begin.

Abu Masouh has tied the release of the hostages to that of his uncle, jailed in Alexandria after being found guilty of handling half a ton of drugs, the source said.

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