BAD AUGUST, BAD SEPTEMBER CRISES
Egypt abduction talks 'ongoing'
Egypt says negotiations are still ongoing to secure the release of 19 people abducted in southern Egypt.
A cabinet spokesman said that an earlier announcement by the foreign minister that they had been freed and were safe and well was premature. The group includes five Italians, five Germans and a Romanian, along with eight Egyptians.
The government says they were taken across the border into Sudan, and the hostage takers have demanded a ransom. The 19 were seized near the Gilf al-Kebir plateau, close to the Libyan and Sudanese borders.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit originally reported their release ahead of a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New York.
He said the hostages were "safe and sound".
But the cabinet spokesman, Magdy Radi, later said: "It is premature to say they are released. The negotiations are still continuing."
Tour owner's call
Egyptian officials say contact has been made with the kidnappers in Sudan, and that they are seeking a ransom of up to $6m (£3.24m).
The tourism ministry said those abducted along with the foreigners were two guides, four drivers, a guard and the owner of the travel company who had organised the excursion.
Gilf al-Kebir is a giant plateau famous for its prehistoric cave paintings, which featured in the 1996 film The English Patient.
The BBC's Ian Pannell in Cairo says local guides have indicated that the Gilf al-Kebir area has become increasingly unsafe this year.
Another group of foreigners was held at gunpoint in February and three of their vehicles were taken.
An investigation at the time pointed the blame at smugglers and bandits. There has been criticism that the Egyptian military has not done enough to patrol the area despite the increased threat.
Tourist abduction blow for Mubarak
As 11 European tourists are abducted in south-west Egypt, the BBC's Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi assesses the likely fall out of the incident.
Tourism matters a lot for the Egyptian economy. It brings in some $8bn (£4.3bn) a year, which is more than 6% of the country's gross domestic product.
One of the most likely consequences of a kidnap incident like this is that it will dent Egypt's reputation as a safe destination for foreign tourists.
It is thought that five Italians, five Germans and a Romanian were taken along with eight Egyptian travel guides and drivers last Friday.
The abduction is believed to have taken place near the Gilf al-Kebir plateau in southern Egypt.
Unconfirmed reports say the hostages have been taken across the border into Sudan.
The Egyptian tourism minister says negotiations are under way to secure their release.
Whatever the motives of the kidnappers, be they political or just criminal, there is no doubt that the incident is a serious blow to the administration of President Hosni Mubarak.
The kidnap comes at the end of a period of bad news for Mr Mubarak's government that has prompted growing calls for a change of leadership inside Egypt.
Mr Mubarak has been in power for nearly 30 years. His critics will see the kidnapping of foreign tourists as yet another example of government failure, despite the exceptional powers given to the police and the enormous resources allocated to security.
Earlier this month, the authorities were accused of responding slowly to a massive rock slide at a shanty town near Cairo that killed more than 100 people.
And before that, the city's fire brigade failed to extinguish a blaze that destroyed a historic building (actually AN OLD PALACE used for the parliaments) in central Cairo housing the upper chamber of parliament.