Egypt Bedouin free 3 S. Korean hostages: governor

Bedouin in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday released three South Korean tourists and their Egyptian tour guide a day after abducting them, South Sinai's governor told AFP.

Khaled Fouda said the tourists, all women, "were unharmed" and he was waiting for them to arrive at a hotel near St Catherine's monastery, from where the tourists were returning on Friday when they were snatched by armed Bedouin.

The kidnappers demanded the release of fellow tribesmen held by the authorities in exchange for the tourists.

Police officials said the tribesman demanded by the kidnappers had been arrested after a bank robbery in one of south Sinai's resorts.

The kidnapping came after the brief abduction of two American women and their Egyptian guide by armed Bedouin in the peninsula last week.

It also follows the brief seizure of 19 Egyptian policemen on Thursday after a tribesman was killed in a shoot-out with police near the border with Israel.

Bedouins in North Sinai also briefly held 25 Chinese workers employed by a military-owned cement factory, to demand the release of Islamist relatives detained over bombings in the peninsula's Red Sea resorts between 2004 and 2006.

The sparsely populated Sinai has some of Egypt's most lucrative tourist spots, as well as being home to a mostly poor and disaffected Bedouin population.

Militants belonging to Bedouin tribes, which complain of discrimination by the central government in Cairo, stepped up attacks on police and a pipeline exporting gas to Israel after president Hosni Mubarak's overthrow last year.

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