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Kidnapped German tourists could be free

Ethiopian rebels have announced the release of two German tourists who they have held hostage for six weeks in the remote Afar desert region. The German Foreign Ministry is yet to confirm the release.

Kidnapped German tourists could be free
Photo: DPA

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.

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

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POLITICS

‘Winter of rage’: Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

Experts are warning that economic hardship may lead to protests throughout Germany in autumn and winter - and that they could be infiltrated by right-wing extremists.

'Winter of rage': Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

In view of rising energy costs, supply difficulties, growing unemployment and general pessimism about the future, authorities in Germany are warning that there will be mass protests this year – and that these are likely to be abused by extremists.

The warnings come from civil servants from the federal offices for the Protection of the Constitution or Bundesverfassungsschutz – Germany’s watchdog for safeguarding free democracy at the federal level and in the 16 states.

Stephan Kramer, president of Thuringia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told German broadcaster ZDF that, following the pandemic and the world events of recent months, there is a “highly emotionalised, aggressive, future-pessimistic mood” among the population, “whose trust in the state, its institutions and political actors is tainted by massive doubts”.

He expects that “legitimate protests” will be infiltrated by extremists, especially those from the so-called Querdenker (lateral thinking) scene and that it is likely that some will turn violent.

READ ALSO: How Germany is saving energy ahead of uncertain winter

“What we have experienced so far in the Covid pandemic in terms of partly violent confrontations on social networks, but also in the streets and squares, was probably more like a children’s birthday party in comparison,” Kramer said.

The head of Hamburg’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Torsten Voß, told the Funke Mediengruppe that he expects “extremist conspiracy ideologues and other enemies of the constitution” will try to abuse protests for their ideological purposes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said “a spectrum of radical opponents of vaccination and so-called Covid deniers have built up a protest infrastructure, with contacts and channels for mobilisation”. This group will try to use this infrastructure for the energy security protests in the autumn, he said.

READ ALSO: German households could see ‘four-digit’ rise in energy costs this winter

Brandenburg’s head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Jörg Müller, also fears that extremists could exploit the energy crisis and high inflation fears for their own purposes.

“Extremists dream of a German winter of rage” he told Welt am Sonntag. “They hope that the energy crisis and price increases will hit people particularly hard so that they can pick up on the mood and advertise their anti-state aspirations. We are following these goings-on with watchful eyes and open ears.”

Vocabulary:

Constitution – (die) Verfassung

Rage – (die) Wut

Violent – gewalttätig

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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