An American pastor kidnapped in Egypt was not aware of the danger of traveling to the area, his son said Sunday. Pastor Michel Louis, a woman from another church, and an Egyptian tour guide were taken off a bus on Friday, Louis’s son Jean told CNN’s Early Start Weekend show.
“As the tour bus was in area of the Sinai peninsula of Egypt, they were stopped by a couple of cars,” Jean Louis said he had heard from his mother, who was on the bus. “In the cars were some gentlemen who got onto the bus. They detained both my father …. and another woman who was part of the group on their way to Israel,” he said.
The other American seized was a female congregant from another church that works closely with his father’s congregation, he said. His mother still can’t believe it, he said. “Everything happened at once. It was all of a sudden. Even now seems like a dream to her — a nightmare,” he said.
The family was not aware of dangers the region, although a number of Americans have been seized in Egypt recently. “If we were aware, I would believe we would use correct judgment not to enter that area,” Jean Louis said. The family is praying for the safety of their father and the other kidnap victims, he said.
“We are concerned, but we’re Christians. We believe in God. We’re resolved in our faith, we know that God is going to see him out of the situation,” he said. “But at the same time, we are human and want to see our father… the member (of the other church), the tour guide too, we want to see him come home safely too,” Jean Louis said.
Egyptian security services in North Sinai are intensifying efforts to get the kidnapped pair and their tour guide released, state media reported Saturday.
The push comes after authorities received confirmation that the trio was still in the area where they were abducted. Their detention was intended to bargain the release of relatives in custody of Egyptian authorities, EgyNews reported.
Security sources “confirmed that continuous efforts are being made in order to determine the whereabouts of the Americans and the Egyptian tour guide on one hand, and to release them in coordination with tribal leaders and the families in the region,” EgyNews said.
Michel Louis is a pastor from Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Louis was traveling with a group of clergy and church members when their vehicle was stopped and he, another member and their tour guide were detained, the Louis family said in a statement.
Jean Louis has told reporters his father is a diabetic. He thanked everyone involved in trying to secure his release and asked that people pray for his safe return, and the safe return of those with him.
He confirmed the identity of the other tourist, a woman, as Lisa Alphonse.
Bedouin kidnappers want authorities to release a relative who is in detention in Alexandria on drug charges, said Gen. Ahmed Bakr, head of security in the North Sinai.
Kidnappings and armed robberies have increased since a popular uprising ousted Egypt’s long-ruling dictator, Hosni Mubarak, last year.
In February, two American tourists were kidnapped and immediately released in the Sinai region. The same thing happened in June, when two American tourists were released about a day after they were abducted.
In Friday’s incident, Bedouins stopped a tour bus en route to Taba and kidnapped the two tourists — a man and a woman — and their guide, Bakr said.
Authorities are trying to negotiate with the kidnappers, he said.
In a message posted on Twitter on Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said it was “in close touch with Egyptian authorities, who are doing everything they can to bring about safe release of the American tourists.”
CNN’s Mohamed Fadel Fahmy reported from Cairo and Saad Abedine, from Atlanta. Richard Allen Greene and Randi Kaye contributed to this story.