Some 15 foreign tourists kidnapped in northern Ethiopia

March 2nd, 2007 Print Print Email Email

Monsters and

March 2, 2007

Addis Ababa – Some 15 foreigners, including at least two Britons, an Italian and an unclear number of French nationals travelling to a tourist site in northern Ethiopia have been kidnapped, sources said Friday.

The French troupe and the group of mixed nationalities were driving in the remote Afar region with separate tour companies in about six large vehicles when they were stopped on Wednesday evening.

A tour operator following the incident said 15 people had been kidnapped, and 10 of them were French.

‘Fifteen Europeans were seen kidnapped in Afar,’ the tour operator said.

The French tourists were reportedly travelling with a tour group called Origins Ethiopia, but the operator could not be reached for comment.

Afar is a hot northern region with rugged desert terrain that has several tourist spots. The famous pre-historic skeleton known as Lucy was found in the region in 1974 and human fossil discoveries in Afar continue.

A source close to one of the Britons told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the group of tourists did not return to their hotel as expected in Mekele, the largest town closest to the salt mines the tourists were visiting, in the northern Tigray region.

One of the missing worked for the British department of international development while another woman was the wife of a diplomat, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Meanwhile the French embassy in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa confirmed there was a kidnapping, but gave no details as to how many people were taken.

‘We are sure that something happened. We don’t know who has been kidnapped. We’re in touch with the Ethiopian authorities,’ said the French ambassador Stephane Gompertz.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Friday said that French nationals could be among the Westerners kidnapped in northern Ethiopia.

‘At this stage, we have no certitude about the number or the nationalities of the people abducted, even if certain indications lead us to believe that French citizens were among them,’ Douste-Blazy told journalists.

British media reported Friday that five Britons had been kidnapped along with 10 French nationals.

A spokesman from the British Foreign Office said it was looking into the reports.

‘We understand that a number of British nationals are reported missing in Ethiopia. Consular staff are looking into it,’ the spokesman said.

The French ambassador said the embassy was sending a representative to Mekele, near the Afar region where the kidnapping took place, to find further details on the incident.

Rebel groups are known to operate out of the Afar region and have staged kidnappings in the past.

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