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Missing Americans found safe in Peru

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 9:54 p.m.

LIMA, Peru — Peru's tourism minister said on Wednesday that he spoke with a young California man who has been reported missing along with his girlfriend for more than a month and that the couple is navigating an Amazon tributary headed for Ecuador.

Jose Luis Silva said that when he told Garrett Hand about all the commotion he and girlfriend Jamie Neal caused by failing to notify relatives of their whereabouts, the 25-year-old was surprised and laughed, saying that everything in Peru was “fantastic.”

Silva did not say how he contacted the couple, who are reportedly on the Napo River in the Amazon region.

Family members of the San Francisco Bay area couple, who have mounted a publicity campaign to find them, including on Facebook, say they still want to see their loved ones or hear their voices.

There was speculation that the young travelers had been kidnapped, possibly by rebels.

Peruvian officials, sensitive to their country's reputation as a safe tourist destination, said they had sent two officials to the Amazon to locate the couple and bring back proof that they are safe and sound.

The U.S. Embassy had issued a statement this week saying Hand and Neal, both 25, were last heard from Jan. 25 while traveling from the highlands city of Cuzco to Lima. The two had been on a cycling trip.

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