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British Hostages Released in Eritrea


British officials have expressed relief at the release of five European hostages kidnapped in Ethiopia nearly two weeks ago and handed over earlier Tuesday to officials in neighboring Eritrea. The status of eight Ethiopians traveling with the group remains unknown. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

The five Europeans were staff and family members of the British embassy in Addis Ababa and had been traveling in Ethiopia's remote Afar region in the north of the country, when they were abducted by gunmen.

It has been unclear just who kidnapped the group and where they were held, but their release was secured in neighboring Eritrea.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett announced the release in London.

"I'm delighted to be able to tell you that all five were released earlier today to the Eritrean authorities and have just arrived in the care of our embassy in Asmara," Beckett says.

Eritrea has denied any involvement in the kidnapping. There were reports separatist rebels in the area might have been responsible. Beckett acknowledged there were still no clear answers, but she said the Eritrean government had been helpful in securing the release. She said the five would soon be reunited with their families.

"The five are being fed and given fresh clothes clean clothes, they're seeing a doctor and medical checks are continuing, but I understand broadly, they're all in good health," Beckett says.

Becket expressed concern about eight Ethiopians who had traveled with the group. Their whereabouts remain unknown.