KHARTOUM - Bandits who kidnapped 19 tourists and Egyptians in the desert have taken their hostages back to Sudan but are now heading towards Egypt, Sudanese officials said on Sunday.
"Security organs on Saturday detected the return of the kidnappers... with their hostages into the Sudanese borders," said Ali Yousuf, director of protocol at the foreign ministry, the official news agency SUNA reported.
However, he added that the group now appears to be moving from Sudan towards "the Egyptian borders."
"It seems that all the hostages are well," he added.
The group, seized by gunmen in southern Egypt nine days ago, was moved across the border to Sudan to the remote mountain region of Jebel Uweinat, a 1,900-metre-high (6,200-foot-high) plateau roughly 30 kilometres (20 miles) in diameter that straddles the borders of Egypt, Libya and Sudan.
On Thursday the kidnappers were reported to have moved some 13 to 15 kilometres (eight to nine miles) across the border into Libya, although officials there later denied this had happened.
The group has now returned to the Sudanese side of Jebel Uweinat.
The hostages are 11 tourists -- five Italians, five Germans, and one Romanian -- plus eight Egyptians -- two guides, four drivers, a border guard and the organiser of the tour group.
The kidnappers have demanded that Germany take charge of payment of a six-million-euro (8.8-million-dollar) ransom, an Egyptian security official told AFP on Thursday.
They also want the ransom to be handed over to the German wife of the tour organiser.
There are conflicting reports about the nationality of the hostage-takers, with different sources saying they were from Sudan, Egypt, Libya or Chad.