Armed tribesmen stopped a tourist bus and kidnapped three Korean women and their guide in Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Friday, the region's security chief said.

It was the latest in a series of kidnappings in Sinai, which has seen a surge in lawlessness over the last year as armed tribes and Islamist militants asserted their power and clashed with security forces.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Naguib, security chief of the south Sinai governorate, said the tourists were abducted around 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the sixth-century St. Catherine's Monastery, close to where two Americans were taken last week.

In both incidents, tribesmen took some of the passengers from a tour vehicle while leaving others behind.

Naguib later said security officials were trying to negotiate a release with the captor, Ali Dikheil, who he said was imprisoned for drug and weapons crimes but broke out during the popular uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011.

The captor was seeking the release of Salim Oda, who was arrested Thursday morning after a failed attempt to rob a bank two days earlier in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Naguib said.

Tribesmen often abduct tourists to use in negotiations with the government over the release of imprisoned colleagues. The tourists are rarely harmed.

Other tribesmen briefly kidnapped 18 Egyptian security guards on Thursday to protest the killing of one of their clan. After holding negotiations with tribal leaders, the kidnappers freed the guards, one of the security officials said.

The two American women abducted last week said afterward that their captors served them tea and dried fruit.