Several elderly tourists, some in their 70s, are among the five Italians, five Germans and a Romanian are being held along with eight Egyptians.

Ali Yousuf, the director of protocol at the Sudanese foreign ministry, told AFP news agency: "We are in constant communication with the Egyptian, German, Italian and Romanian authorities."

Egyptian security officials have been in contact with the hostages through the Egyptian tour leader's wife, who has been speaking to her husband via satellite phone.

The tourism ministry in Egypt, which relies heavily on earnings from foreign visitors, has said it was "an act of banditry not of terrorism."