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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 March 2007, 12:57 GMT
Ethiopia kidnap vehicle recovered
Location map of Ethiopia

British Embassy officials in Ethiopia are retrieving one of the damaged cars used by colleagues who went missing in the north of the country 10 days ago.

They will use a pick-up truck to bring back the Land Rover from Hamedali, in the remote Afar region near Eritrea, to Mekele in northern Ethiopia.

The Foreign Office says investigations are continuing into the kidnapping.

But so far there has been no sign of the four Britons, one French citizen and their Ethiopian staff.

Danakil Depression

The vehicle, which had a grenade thrown into the passenger side door, is one of three used by the group.

All were damaged by shrapnel or an explosion when the group were kidnapped in a night- time raid on their camp.

The Foreign Office says it is investigating reports that the kidnappers are Afar separatist rebels.

The Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin says the staff are being held in the area of the Danakil Depression.

He said the party was in the Afar region, which covers areas on both sides of the Eritrean- Ethiopian border.

Mr Mesfin said they were "safe and well" but did not know who the kidnappers were.

"We cannot disclose the place where they are because we believe that this will endanger their safety," he added.

'Unharmed and safe'

The state-run Ethiopian News Agency said five of the eight Ethiopians who were with the kidnapped group were found near the Eritrean border on 3 March.

According to a community leader, information about the kidnapped group was passed on by nomadic herders in Eritrea.

Reuters quoted Ismeal Ali Gardo, co-founder of the Afar Pastoralists Development Association, as saying the group was "unharmed and safe" and being held in the Eritrean border town of Wayeme by the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front.

An Eritrean government spokesman denied the embassy staff were in the country.

"We understand the concern of the families, but this event happened inside Ethiopia and it is taking place inside Ethiopia," Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu told Reuters.

The UK Foreign Office said it was satisfied the Eritrean government had no part in the abduction and that it was co-operating with the search.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 following a 30-year guerrilla war and relations between the two countries have been strained since.

Q&A: Ethiopia's Afar community
05 Mar 07 |  Africa
Country profile: Ethiopia
02 Mar 07 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Eritrea
19 Dec 06 |  Country profiles

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