Gunmen kill five Europeans, abduct two in Ethiopia | world | Hindustan Times
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Gunmen kill five Europeans, abduct two in Ethiopia

world Updated: Jan 22, 2012 08:00 IST

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Gunmen killed five Europeans trekking near Ethiopia's famed Erta Ale volcano and kidnapped two others, officials said on Wednesday, in the region's worst attack on tourists in years.

The volcano is one of Africa's most spectacular and lies in the Afar depression, reputedly one of the least hospitable places on the planet, where local rebels have claimed attacks and kidnappings in the past.

Ethiopia blamed Eritrea but Asmara denied involvement in the attack, which occurred before dawn on Tuesday and dealt another blow to regional tourism after recent kidnappings in Kenyan resorts and attacks on yachts by Somali pirates.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's spokesman Peter Szijjarto, in an emailed statement, provided the nationalities of all the tourists involved in yesterday's incident, citing information he said was obtained from Interpol.

"Two Hungarians were killed in Ethiopia and another lightly wounded... In total, five people were killed: two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian," the spokesman said.

"Two Italians were able to escape, two Belgians were lightly wounded. Two Germans and two Ethiopians were abducted," he added.

Belgium said one of its nationals was wounded in the attack, as was a British friend she was travelling with.

Ethiopia's foreign ministry said that a total of 22 tourists were on the trip to the remote destination.

"There is concern that the people who have been kidnapped might have been taken across the border into Eritrea," it said in a statement.

Some of the tourists were flown back to the capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday afternoon, including a man in a wheelchair. Some hid their faces with scarves and rucksacks, an AFP correspondent said.

Several diplomats were at the airport to meet the tourists who were driven away in waiting vehicles.

The Afar region, an arid northern region with shallow salty lakes and chains of volcanoes, is one of the hottest places on Earth. It is also known for hominid fossil finds.

Erta Ale, or "Smoking Mountain", is an active volcano which has a width of some 50 kilometres.

It sits in the Afar depression, also known as the Danakil depression, an area which lies below sea level and features as the dramatic backdrop to scenes in Hollywood's 2010 epic fantasy Clash of the Titans.