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Kidnapped German tourists could be free

The Local · 6 Mar 2012, 11:52

Published: 06 Mar 2012 09:40 GMT+01:00
Updated: 06 Mar 2012 11:52 GMT+01:00

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The two were handed over to German embassy officials and local elders in the desolate northern Ethiopian region on Monday, the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) said in a statement.

They were seized in a bloody attack on the slopes of the famed Erta Ale volcano. Two other Germans, two Austrians and a Hungarian were killed in a gun battle between the rebels and government forces escorting the tourist group.

Since then, the Germans have been held in the harsh desert environment, one of the hottest places in the world.

In their statement, the rebels apologised to the unnamed pair and wished them a safe return home. Ethiopian officials were not immediately available for comment.

The rebels said the Ethiopian government had frustrated their earlier plans to free the Germans by making movement in the area "impossible."

The Germans were among 22 tourists trekking on the slopes of Erta Ale volcano when the shootout erupted.

The incident dealt a blow to regional tourism, after tourists were were kidnapped in Kenyan resorts months earlier by Somali pirates.

Ethiopia says the rebels attacked the tourist convoy, but the ARDUF said fighting broke out when Ethiopian troops protecting the tourist party fired on one of its patrols and blamed Addis Ababa for the deaths.

"The five innocent European tourists were killed by Ethiopian fire," added the statement.

Erta Ale, or "Smoking Mountain" sits in the Afar depression, also known as the Danakil depression, which lies below sea level and features as the dramatic backdrop to scenes in Hollywood's 2010 epic fantasy "Clash of the Titans."

Access to the region is limited and foreigners need official approval to get there but it attracts a steady stream of volcano buffs and adventure backpackers who often plan group trips on Internet forums to share the high travel costs.

Ethiopia has blamed arch-rival Eritrea for backing the rebels and claimed the tourists were held across the border in remote desert areas of Eritrea - charges Asmara fiercely denied.

Last month, ARDUF rebels said they supported the hostages' safe release, but warned that "any military engagement with ARDUF would... endanger the lives of the two German citizens."

It claimed there had been repeated clashes between Ethiopian forces and ARDUF rebels since the January attack.

Story continues below…

ARDUF has been fighting a low-level insurgency in the northern region near the tense Eritrean border to end what it says is "political marginalisation and economic deprivation" by Addis Ababa. The group claims to have no links to Eritrea.

In 2007, ARDUF rebels seized five European tourists and eight Ethiopians. The Europeans were released after 12 days to the Eritrean government, while the Ethiopians were freed almost two months later.

AFP/The Local/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:19 March 6, 2012 by derExDeutsche
Someone needs to tell the Germans that the bad guys outside of Germany do not care how 'tolerant' and cushy the entitlement system is Germany. Just because you have a German Passport will not spare you a gruesome fate. well, at least Germans don't insist on tattooing every bag and jacket they own with Canadian flags. hey psst. Canadians, nobody but you gives a. Go to Costa Rica, ist gescheiter
16:40 March 6, 2012 by raandy
derExDeutsche lol The Canadians put that big Maple leaf on there to say we are not Americans , but I doubt that will protect them anymore than a German Passport did those individuals in Ethiopia.
19:56 March 6, 2012 by Munir Ahmed
Amazingly, the same leaders and fund-raisers of all these Eritrean, Somali-Ogaden and Afar terrorists groups creating chaos in East Africa are living comfortably in Sweden, Germany and Britain. Thanks to ridiculous asylum laws, they live for free on backs of taxpayers, yet sending money to fund terrorists, kidnappers and pirates.

Good Job Europe!
20:34 March 6, 2012 by Englishted
If you are stupid enough to go to these places please be so kind as to have enough money put aside to get yourself out the #### without having to rely on anybody else putting their lives on the line for you.
01:16 March 7, 2012 by Den Maskin
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
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