Friday, March 09, 2007

Kidnapped Brits 'reportedly safe'

Kidnapped Europeans in Ethiopia 'safe'
The British Foreign Office said reports that kidnapped British Embassy staff are in the custody of Afar separatist rebels in Africa are being investigated. The office said reports that the four Britons, one French citizen and eight Ethiopians are in good health with the rebels are being looked into, the BBC reported Friday.

Nomadic Herders?
Ismael Ali Gardo, cofounder of the Afar Pastoralists Development Association, said nomadic herders reported that the missing embassy staff and Ethiopians are "unharmed and safe" in the custody of the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front in the Eritrean settlement of Weima.

Eritrean officials continue to deny the presence of the kidnapped party in their country.

From Sky News:

The Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) has been fighting for years against Ethiopia and Eritrea over lands inhabited by ethnic Afar. They have also admitted kidnapping Italian tourists in 1995. Senior Ethiopian officials have claimed Eritrean soldiers might have been involved and may have kidnapped the hostages before marching them to a military camp.
Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have been strained since Eritrea gained independence in 1993 following a 30-year guerrilla war. But Eritrea's information minister has dismissed the allegations, saying they were fabricated to make his country look bad.

The closed border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is hotly disputed. Aid workers pulled out about 15 months ago and foreigners are advised not to travel there.

About the Afars:

About 1.4 million Afars live in Ethiopia with smaller, but still very significant, Afar communities living as minorities in the neighbouring countries of Eritrea and Djibouti. Most are nomadic herders. Some also trade in the salt that can be mined from the Danakil Depression, a very hot and barren area lying below sea level and straddling the Eritrea-Ethiopia border. They have their own language, Afar.

And now, time for the aha! moment.

Almost all the Afars are Sunni Muslims.

What do they want? An independent homeland. When do they want it? Now.