Home | News    Thursday 8 March 2012

Ethiopia: Abducted German tourists released

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

March 7, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - Ethiopian Afar rebels said they have freed two German tourists who were taken hostage in an attack in January near the Eritrean border.

In a statement, the Eritrea based Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) said the two Germans were handed over to local elders on Monday night in the presence of German Embassy representatives.

However, there has been no official confirmation from the German Embassy in Addis Ababa or the Ethiopian authorities over their release.

The captives were among a group of 27 foreign tourists and two Ethiopians (a driver and a police man) who came under attack by gunmen, while visiting in tourist attractions in Ethiopia’s Afar region.

The assault took place near Erta Ale, one of Ethiopia’s most active volcanic sites, located along the inhospitable Danakil depression, where temperatures regularly exceed 50 degrees Celsius in the summer.

The assault led to the killing of two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian. Four others German, Belgian and Italian nationals were wounded in the shoot out.

Two other Germans and two Ethiopians were then taken hostage.

Shortly after the incident, the Ethiopian government blamed Eritrea for the attacks saying the cross-border assailants were trained and armed by arch-foe Eritrea. However, Asmara immediately dismissed the accusations.

The little known ARDUF rebel group claims it is struggling to what it says is against political marginalisation by Addis Ababa and to the unity of the Afar peoples in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

But Addis Ababa says the ARDUF is a group of bandits who serve as mercenaries to the Eritrean government.

Following Eritrea’s independence in 1993, the two east African countries have been bitter adversaries. During 1998-2000, the two rivals fought border war which killed at least 70,000 people.

With their border dispute not yet resolved, relations between the two neighbours remain tense and both routinely trade accusations of supporting one the others rebel movement.

In 2007, the Afar separatists similarly kidnapped five Europeans and eight Ethiopians from the Afar region and took them to Eritrean territory where they hold them hostage before releasing them few weeks later. The UK said at the time that Asmara had helped to secure their release.

(ST)

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