Ethiopian police have confirmed that five European expatriates were kidnapped by armed men while traveling in a remote, rebel-plagued area of northeastern Ethiopia.

The announcement Friday did not identify the nationality of the abducted Europeans, but did say they have been living in Ethiopia.  Initial reports indicated that more than a dozen tourists in two separate groups disappeared earlier this week while traveling in Ethiopia's Afar region. 

The French foreign minister has said there are indications that French citizens may be among those abducted.  The British foreign secretary has confirmed that staff of the British embassy in Addis Ababa and their relatives 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 AFP, AP and Reuters.