Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Europeans kidnapped in Ethiopia freed

Wednesday March 14, 2007
By Paul Hughes

LONDON - Five Europeans kidnapped in Ethiopia almost two weeks ago have been released but the whereabouts of eight locals seized with them remain unclear, British and Ethiopian officials said today.

British foreign minister Margaret Beckett said the three British men, an Italian-British woman and a Frenchwoman, all linked to the British diplomatic community in the Ethiopian capital, had been freed with the help of Ethiopia's neighbor Eritrea.

"All five were released earlier today to the Eritrean authorities and have just arrived in the care of our embassy in (the Eritrean capital) Asmara," Beckett told reporters. "I understand that broadly they are all in good health."

They were seized 12 days ago by armed attackers while traveling in Ethiopia's remote northeast Afar region, where separatist rebels are known to operate.

Regional officials and Afar locals had said the hostages had been marched into Eritrea, something Asmara denied.

Beckett said there were varying reports as to where the hostages had been held but "certainly they were released with the help of the Eritrean government".

Asked whether they had been kidnapped by Afar separatist rebels, Beckett said: "That has been the thinking earlier, but I haven't heard anything to confirm that since they were released."

A government spokesman said Britain had not paid a ransom to secure the Europeans' release, which came as a "result of a process of dialogue".

Source: New Zealand Herald


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