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Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said the two German tourists who were kidnapped during an attack by gunmen in January have been released. The Germans were freed from kidnappers who were associated with the country’s archrival, Eritrea. Five tourists were killed and two wounded in the January 18 attack in Ethiopia’s arid north.
In a statement, the Eritrean based Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) said the two Germans were handed over to local elders on Monday March 5, in the presence of German Embassy representatives.
The captives were among a group of 27 foreign tourists and two Ethiopians (a driver and a police man) who came under attack by gunmen, while visiting in tourist attractions in Ethiopia’s Afar region.
The assault took place near Erta Ale, one of Ethiopia’s most active volcanic sites, located along the inhospitable Danakil depression, where temperatures regularly exceed 50 degrees Celsius in the summer.
The assault led to the killing of two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian. Four others German, Belgian and Italian nationals were wounded in the shootout. Two Germans and two Ethiopians were then taken hostage.
Shortly after the incident, the Ethiopian government blamed Eritrea for the attacks saying the cross-border assailants were trained and armed by arch-foe Eritrea. However, Asmara immediately dismissed the accusations.
The little known ARDUF rebel group claims it is struggling to what it says is against political marginalization by Addis Ababa and to the unity of the Afar peoples in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.
But Addis Ababa says ARDUF is a group of bandits who serve as mercenaries to the Eritrean government.
In 2007, the Afar separatists similarly kidnapped five Europeans and eight Ethiopians from the Afar region and took them to Eritrean territory where they hold them hostage before releasing them few weeks later. The UK said at the time that Asmara had helped secure their release.
(Compiled from news agencies)