2 U.S. tourists abducted in Egypt freed

The Rev. Michel Louis (left) of the Free Pentecostal Church of God in Boston, and Lissa Alphonse of Everett, Mass., were abducted (along with an Egyptian guide) in the Sinai Peninsula. AP Photo, Family of Rev. Michel Louis; WBZ

Last Updated 1:39.p.m. ET

(CBS/AP) Two American tourists and their Egyptian guide who were kidnapped in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday have been released, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo has confirmed to CBS News.

Rev. Michel Louis, 61, a Boston pastor, and Lissa Alphonse, 39, of Everett, Mass., had been abducted, along with their guide, Haytham Ragab, as their tour group was traveling on a church trip to Mount Sinai.

The hostage-taker, an Egyptian Bedouin named Jirmy Abu-Masuh, told the Associated Press that he had handed the three over to security officials near the northern Sinai city of el-Arish on Monday after he was promised that authorities were working on his uncle's release.

"We are a people of mercy and they don't have anything to do with this," Abu-Masuh said, referring to the Americans.

Gen. Ahmed Bakr, head of security in North Sinai province, confirmed the release and said the three were now in the protection of security officials in Sinai. In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell also confirmed their release and thanked Egyptian authorites.

Abu-Masuh had said he would not free the two Americans until his uncle was released from jail. He said his uncle was detained for refusing to pay the police a bribe.

Abu-Masuh also vowed to take more hostages, of different nationalities, if his demands were not met.

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Egyptian officials said earlier on Monday they would not release the uncle until he completes a 15-day prison sentence for possession of drugs.

The abduction took place along the road linking Cairo to the sixth-century St. Catherine's Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai where the Old Testament says Moses received the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. The route is a frequent target by Bedouins who abduct tourists to pressure police to meet their demands, usually to release a detained relative they say has been unjustly arrested.

Louis, a Presbyterian pastor, was on the trip with his wife, Fredrick Gladys Louis, who was on the bus with him at the time and remained in Egypt afterward waiting for his release, their son, Rev. John Louis, said.

"She witnessed the whole thing, so you can only imagine," he said. "She's a fervent woman of God ... she told us to tell everybody that everything is going to be alright."

The family was concerned that the 61-year-old pastor was unable to take his diabetes medication with him when he got off the bus. His family said he takes natural medication, not insulin.

Ragab, 28, told the AP on Friday from the captor's phone that he and the two Americans had been fed a roast lamb and were staying at Abu-Masuh's home in the harsh mountain terrain of central Sinai.

Officials say the captives were held 2 miles from Egypt's border with Israel.

Louis said he had been contacted by Massachusetts senators Scott Brown and John Kerry. Separately, a senior U.S. official said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton brought up the American's case when she met with her Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Saturday.

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