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Last Updated: Monday, 12 March 2007, 16:34 GMT
Ethiopia kidnap group 'are safe'
Location map of Ethiopia

A group of British embassy workers kidnapped in northern Ethiopia 11 days ago are "safe and well", the country's prime minister has said.

Meles Zenawi said efforts to contact the kidnappers were under way and he had a good idea where they were based.

He said the workers - four Britons, one French citizen and their Ethiopian staff - were not personally targeted.

Officials are contacting a network of tribal elders in Ethiopia's Afar region in a bid to locate the group.

It is thought they are being held in the country's far north, near the border with Eritrea.

Mr Meles described them as people who had "not done anything to hurt anyone".

"I do not believe these people were targeted. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.

He spoke of the kidnappers having taken "a step too far", saying they "need to find a way to redress their steps in a way that does not affect their interests".

But Mr Meles gave few new details about the kidnap and told journalists not to expect new information any time soon.

Night-time raid

Witnesses in Hamedali, a village in Ethiopia's Afar region, told Reuters news agency how the armed kidnappers initially attacked local tax collectors before stumbling across the foreigners.

The five Europeans, accompanied by local guides, translators and drivers, were apparently on a sightseeing tour when they were abducted.

One of the Land Rovers driven by the group was recovered by investigators on the weekend.

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

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 following a 30-year guerrilla war.

Relations between the two countries have been strained since.


SEE ALSO
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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