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Ethiopia: Tourists kidnapped after five killed in attack near Eritrea

Ethiopia has blamed Eritrea for a deadly armed attack on a European tour group that saw five tourists killed and four people kidnapped in Ethiopia's restive Afar region.

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Two Ethiopian soldiers walk along a road leading to the eastern Ethiopian border town of Badme in November, 2008. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Ethiopian authorities say four people were kidnapped after five tourists were killed in an armed attack on a European tour group in Ethiopia's Afar region, near the border with Eritrea.

The tourists killed in the attack have been identified as two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian national, government spokesman Bereket Simon told Reuters. Two other tourists, said to be Belgian, were seriously injured, the BBC reported.

The BBC said that two German tourists and an Ethiopian policeman and driver were then abducted, and taken over the border to Eritrea.

Ethiopia has blamed Eritrean-trained gunmen for the massacre Monday in the remote Afar region in the country's north, according to Reuters. But Eritrea has denied the accusations that it was behind the attack.

Afar is a volcanic region described as being extremely hot and inhospitable. Reuters said the Afar region is home to rebels who, officials in Addis Ababa say, frequently cross the border into Eritrea.

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Some 70,000 people are believed to have died in a border war between the two countries between 1998 and 2000.

"The group of foreign tourists was attacked by gunmen late on Monday, by members of a group that was trained and armed by the Eritrean government. It's the usual terrorist activity by the regime," government spokesman Bereket Simon was quoted as saying.

It was unclear how Ethiopian authorities had identified the culprits.

Eritrea's secretive government frequently accuses Ethiopia of lying to hurt its smaller neighbor to the north. The standing view of Ethiopia is that Asmara supports separatists in Ethiopia. The government in Addis Ababa blamed an Afar rebel group for the kidnapping of five Europeans there in 2007.

According to The Associated Press, Ethiopian Television, or ETV, cited the country's defense ministry in reporting that the group that came under attack included eight individuals and that two were taken by the military to a health clinic in critical condition. One person was unhurt.

Eritrea hosts the separatist Oromo Liberation Front, according to the AP.

Usually, researchers, aid workers and thrill-seeking visitors to the Danakil Depression, scene of salt mines and volcanoes and one of the hottest places on earth, are the only foreigners to venture into Afar. Citing German media, Reuters said the group killed Monday had been near the Erta Ale volcano, one of the most active in Ethiopia.

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In the 2007 incident, the kidnapped foreigners were released.

Ethiopia said Wednesday it will try to free those who were abducted in Monday's attack, and to secure the border with Eritrea.

Read more on GlobalPost: Tourists killed in remote Ethiopia's Afar region

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120117/ethiopia-blames-eritrea-shooting-deaths-five-tourists-remote-afar