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Government Minister Appeals for Release of Abducted Ethiopians


Several British citizens abducted in northeastern Ethiopia are reportedly on their way back home after having been released. But eight Ethiopians who had been abducted with the group are still being held hostage. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Ethiopian Minister of Information Berhane Hailu appealed for the release of the eight Ethiopians who were among a group of five Britons and 13 Ethiopian drivers and guides abducted March 1.

The Ethiopian government accuses its neighbor Eritrea of being involved in the kidnapping, a charge Eritrea denies.

Berhane tells VOA his government is worried about the fate of the remaining Ethiopians.

"We have serious concern about them," he said. "We have expressed our views that the Eritrean government should release the people as soon as possible and urgently. The international community should have to assist us in such problem."

VOA could not reach the Eritrean government for comment. In a previous interview with VOA, presidential spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel said that the kidnapping accusation is "crazy," and if it is coming from Ethiopia, the Ethiopians have their own motives.

Berhane says the five Britons arrived in Addis Ababa Wednesday from the Eritrean capital Asmara.

The French news agency AFP quotes a western diplomat in Addis Ababa as saying the Britons were no longer in the capital and were likely on their way back to Britain.

Berhane describes the process of how the five Britons and five Ethiopians were released.

"The Ethiopian government and also the British embassy here in Addis were working closely to find a solution for this kidnapping," he added. "So the international community pressure and also the efforts of the British embassy, and also in London have contributed a lot in solving the problem."

Relations between Ethiopia and its neighbor have been rocky since the time of Eritrea's independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The two fought a border war from 1998 to 2000 in which tens of thousands of people were killed.

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