Middle East

Chinese workers seized in Egypt's Sinai peninsula

Map of Egypt

Bedouin tribesmen have kidnapped 25 Chinese workers in the north of Egypt's Sinai peninsula, officials say.

The technicians and engineers were on their way to work at a military-owned cement factory in the Lehfen area when gunmen stopped the bus and seized them.

They are being held inside a tent and Bedouin are blocking roads in the area.

The kidnappers are demanding the release of five relatives jailed after the 2004 bomb attack at the Red Sea resort of Taba that killed 31 people.

"We will not release the Chinese until our demand for the release of these sons of Sinai is met," one tribesman told the Reuters news agency.

The authorities say talks are going on to try to resolve the issue.

The Chinese embassy in Cairo said the workers were safe and had been in contact with consular officials by telephone, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

Chinese ambassador Song Aiguo urged the Egyptian authorities to "to put the safety of Chinese workers first, properly handle the incident and secure their release as soon as possible", Xinhua reported.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says tribesmen have been involved in a series of confrontations with security forces in recent months.

A gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel has also repeatedly been sabotaged, though the big tourist resorts on Sinai's south coast, including Sharm el-Sheikh, have remained largely secure, our correspondent adds.