Five foreign tourists killed in Ethiopia's Afar region
Five foreign tourists were killed by armed attackers and several more were wounded and taken to hospital on Monday in the Afar region of Ethiopia bordering Eritrea, state television reported Tuesday.
AFP - Gunman killed five European tourists and kidnapped two other foreigners as they visited the famed Erta Ale volcano in the remote northeast of Ethiopia, the government said on Wednesday.
Officials in Addis Ababa said the attack on Monday had been carried out by gunmen who had been armed by Eritrea, an accusation fiercely denied by the government in Asmara.
The five, from Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Italy and Austria were all visiting the Erta Ale volcanic site in the remote Afar region near the Ethiopia-Eritrea border, Ethiopia government spokesman Bereket Simon told AFP.
Four other people including two foreigners were also kidnapped, said Bereket. He did not give the nationalities of the foreigners who had been abducted but said a policeman and a driver were among those taken.
Two other people had been wounded, he added.
Ethiopian state television said the wounded victims had been taken to hospital by government forces in the region.
The Afar region, an inhospitable scrubland and desert with shallow salty lakes and chains of volcanoes, is reputed to be one of the hottest places on Earth. It also known for hominid fossil finds.
The Erta Ale is an active volcano which has a width of some 50 kilometers. Access to the region is extremely limited and foreigners need official approval to get there.
It mostly attracts intrepid tourists, explorers and archeologists.
A French tourist disappeared in the region in 2004 leaving behind no trace apart from a rucksack.
In 2007, a group of European nationals were kidnapped by rebels in the region, but later released.
Bereket said that the attack on Monday had been carried out "terrorist groups trained and armed by the Eritrean government (who) crossed the border and attacked them and the assailants have gone back".
However Eritrea vehemently denied involvement in the attack.
"It has become the modus operandi of the Ethiopian government to blame Eritrea for anything happening inside Ethiopia," said Girma Asmerom, Eritrea's representative to the African Union.
"Eritrea has never supported and will never support such an incident," he added.
The two Horn of Africa neighbours fought a devastating war between 1998 and 2000 over the precise path of their frontier, which claimed at least 70,000 lives. The row remains unresolved.
Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia and won its independence after a protracted 30-year struggle in 1993.
Last year, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his country was ready to help the people of Eritrea topple the regime of President Issaias Afeworki.
He accused the Eritrean government of trying to destabilise Ethiopia by backing rebel groups such as the Oromo Liberation Front and Ogaden National Liberation Front as well as the Somali Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab.