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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 21:50 GMT
Kidnappers treated Britons 'well'
One of the party's damaged cars

Four Britons freed after being taken hostage in Ethiopia say they were well-treated by their captors, and are "physically well but tired."

One of the first things they did on release was speak to their families.

The group have now arrived back in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, after leaving Eritrea, where they were handed over by their captors.

A spokesman said: "They will spend some time there and will be consulted on what they want to do next."

The spokesman added it was "unlikely that they will be leaving today."

Freed hostage Rosanna Moore's husband Michael thanked everyone involved in the release.

He said: "Words simply cannot express the overwhelming sense of relief that the news of their release brings."

A British Council spokesman said there had been plans for the couple to meet on Wednesday evening.

Location map of Ethiopia

A French woman hostage was released along with the four Britons. But fears are growing for eight Ethiopians abducted at the same time.

The group were taken captive on 1 March in the Afar region in northern Ethiopia.

Doctors say the five Europeans are in "good health".

The British ambassador to Ethiopia Bob Dewar said he and all the embassy staff were "extremely relieved and happy" that their friends and colleagues are now safe and well.

Brian Smart, whose son Malcolm Smart had been kidnapped, told reporters at his home in Newcastle upon Tyne of his and wife Ida's relief.

He added: "We are delighted and very relieved to know that they are safe and sound but we have been advised not to say anything about this because of other hostages still in Ethiopia."

FREED HOSTAGES
Peter Rudge, first secretary at the British embassy in Addis Ababa
Jonathan Ireland, administrative support staff at the embassy
Malcolm Smart, Department for International Development (DFID)
Laure Beaufils, a French national, also DFID
Rosanna Moore, wife of the head of the British Council in Addis Ababa

The group were travelling in the Afar region, one of the hottest, most remote places on earth, when witnesses said they were seized at gunpoint by a group of up to 50 masked men and marched into the desert.

Immediate release

One of the Land Rovers driven by the group was recovered at the weekend in the village of Hamedali in the Afar region, which spans Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The party were apparently on a sightseeing tour when they were abducted on 1 March.

It is believed that Afar tribal elders negotiated with the kidnappers to secure the group's release.

They were handed over to Eritrean authorities on Tuesday.

The Ethiopian government is now calling for the immediate release of the eight Ethiopians kidnapped with the Europeans.

BBC East Africa correspondent Adam Mynott said there had been no official word on who the kidnappers were, but added that it was "pretty clear" that a rebel group based in the Afar desert was responsible.

The Afar region straddles the border of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

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




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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