Two American women and their Egyptian guide were kidnapped this morning as they traveled south from Saint Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai to the Red Sea resort, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egyptian officials said.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Naguib, the head of south Sinai security, told the Associated Press that the women, who were not immediately identified, were driving in a minivan.

The Egyptian newspaper, Al Masry Alyoum reported three other tourists were left behind. Their nationalities were not immediately known.

A dragnet for the kidnappers is currently underway. Reuters reports that the gunmen sought ransom money.

The U.S. Embassy has not released a statement yet.

Earlier this week, Bedouins kidnapped 25 Chinese workers in Sinai. They were released unharmed the following day.

In recent months, Egypt has seen an uptick of violence as the security situation deteriorates. This comes as thousands of protesters in Cairo begin to march on the Ministry of Interior building to protest this week’s violent soccer stadium riots that left at least 74 people dead. Soccer fans blame the violence on the lack of security at the game. Four people have died so far today in clashes.

Since the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the country’s tourism industry has taken a hit, with revenues plunging nearly 30 percent in the last year. Tourism Minister Mounir Abdel-Nour said last month that the number of tourists who came to Egypt in 2011 dropped to 9.8 million from 14.7 million the previous year. Revenues for the year clocked in at $8.8 billion compared to $12.5 billion in 2010.

The Associated Press



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