Ethiopia: The Mysterious Affair in Afar


March 15, 2007: Ethiopia once again accused Eritrea of being involved in the kidnapping five Europeans (four British citizens and a French citizen) in Ethiopia's Afar region. All five of the victims worked with the British embassy in the capital. Ethiopia called the kidnapping "terrorism." The Ethiopians have now discovered, from the freed European hostages, that the kidnappers were wearing Eritrean uniforms, and the kidnappers took their hostages across the border into Eritrea. However, since the release of the five hostages on March 13, it's been revealed that Britain convinced the Ethiopians not to send troops across the border to effect a rescue, and to allow British diplomats to do their thing. Stories have cropped up in the British tabloid press that British Special Air Service (SAS) commandos helped locate the hostages and confirmed they were being held inside Eritrea. It is believed that the kidnappers were Ethiopian ethnic rebels who are supported by Eritrea, and that this group pulled off the kidnapping on a whim, without consulting the Eritrean government.

March 13, 2007: Britain reported that five Europeans who were kidnapped on March 1 in Ethiopia's Afar region had been released. The British report said that Eritrea had helped get the five people released. The Eritrean government brought the five to Eritrea's capital, and passed them over to the British embassy. The British report said that it could not confirm reports that the five were taken hostage by an Afar rebel organization. Eight Ethiopian citizens who were also kidnapped have not been released. On March 7 the Ethiopian government said that it had evidence that the missing thirteen people were "in good condition" and being held by an Afar rebel group allied with Eritrea. "Nomadic herders" in the region had made contact with the kidnappers. The Ethiopian government said the kidnappers belonged to the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF). The ARDUF claims to represent tribesmen in the Afar region, which includes parts of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

March 12, 2007: The UN said that Ethiopia was helping to repatriate Sudanese refugees from Ethiopia to Sudan's Blue Nile and Upper Nile states. The UN expects 30,000 refugees to leave Ethiopia and return to Sudan during 2007.

The US ambassador to Ethiopia said that the US had identified four "cornerstone" nations in sub-Saharan Africa: Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia. All four countries have large populations and are regarded as geographically strategic. Nigeria is an oil exporter with a large population that is split between Christians and Muslims. South Africa is wealthy and controls the Cape of Good Hope. It is also (especially for southern Africa) a stable democracy. Ethiopia and Kenya are on "the Horn of Africa" and have a mix of Christian and Muslim populations They are both in the US military's CENTCOM theater of operations.


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