An Ethiopian official says at least five of the European tourists kidnapped earlier this week in a remote area of the country were taken by Eritrean forces.

The official told reporters Saturday that at least some of the tourists were spotted by residents in Ethiopia's northeast Afar region where the tourists disappeared. The officials says the captives were taken to the Eritrean Arat military camp.

There has been no independent confirmation of the report.

Meanwhile, Britain has said it is sending a crisis team to Ethiopia to an attempt to free the captives.

Two groups of tourists, including at least seven French nationals in one group and five Britons in another, disappeared earlier this week while traveling in Ethiopia's Afar region.

The British foreign secretary confirmed that staff and family members from the British embassy in Addis are among the missing.

A local tour operator announced that what appeared to be a third missing group of tourists has now been located and were not kidnapped.

Ethiopian government officials and foreign diplomats say they are investigating the abductions.

Afar has been troubled for several years by bandits and ethnic rebels fighting for independence for the region. Several Italian tourists were kidnapped while touring Afar in 1995. The Ethiopian government requires tourists to travel with armed guards when visiting the region.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.