Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fears rise for abducted Brits

This doesn't sound good at all:

Fears rise for abducted Brits
Fears rose on Tuesday for a British embassy group abducted six days ago in the Ethiopian desert after their bullet-riddled cars were found near the Eritrean border. A team of British officials on Tuesday left the site where they had been shown the abandoned vehicles, making no comment as they set off to continue scouring the arid and scorching Ethiopian northeast. The missing five - all linked to London's embassy in Addis Ababa - and their Ethiopian drivers and translators, disappeared last Thursday in Afar region while on a tourist trip. In Paris, the French foreign minister confirmed rumours that one of the captives was a French woman.

Eritrea denied involvement despite statements of regional officials to the contrary. Al-qaeda has also been mentioned as a possible suspect in the incident.

Officials are "working around the clock" to find them.
An AP Television News cameraman saw the vehicles in Hamedali, the last staging post before the region's famous salt lakes. Bullet holes lined the doors of the vehicles, which still had luggage, shoes and cell phones inside. No blood was visible. British investigators at the scene refused to comment, but the embassy official in Addis Ababa said nobody was believed to have been in the vehicles at the time of the shooting.

About the Afar region:
Communication and travel into Afar are extremely difficult. The region is not heavily traveled by foreigners – in part because of its proximity to Ethiopia's disputed border with archrival Eritrea – although the moonlike landscape draws adventure tourists. Travelers are required to have armed guards.

Bandits and a small rebel group operate in Afar, where the famous Ethiopian fossil of Lucy, the earliest known hominid, was discovered in 1974.