ETHIOPIA: ICRC suspends operations after kidnapping
NAIROBI, 21 Sep 2006 (IRIN) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has suspended operations in eastern Ethiopia after two staff-members were kidnapped by armed gunmen near the town of Gode in the Somali region, a spokesman said.The ICRC has worked in the region for 11 years. The two, one Irish and the other Ethiopian, were kidnapped on Monday morning as they drove in a convoy of three cars about 1,100 km southeast of the capital, Addis Ababa.
“Their convoy was stopped by an unidentified armed group about 50 kilometres north of Gode,” said Patrick Megevand, ICRC spokesman, adding that the pair were taken without force. Six other Ethiopian staff were allowed to return to the ICRC base in Gode.
“We firmly condemn this abduction and call for the respect of our humanitarian staff that is working in Ethiopia to help the country,” Megevand said. “Because of this abduction, we have suspended all our activities in the Somali region until further notice after working 11 years there. We are in contact with the abductors and a mediation is under way to ensure they are freed.”
In the Irish capital, Dublin, the foreign ministry identified one of those kidnapped as Donal O’Suilleabhain, originally from Sligo.
The Ethiopian government said it was aware of the incident, which took place in an area where the separatist rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, is known to be active. It has for years fought for the Somali region’s independence.
“We’ve got the information, we are trying to check what has happened there … the federal police is investigating the case,” said information ministry spokesman Zemedkum Tekle. “At this point, we don’t know the identity the perpetrators.”