'Eritreans captured the Britons'

2007-03-05 19:10
Hamed Ala - One of five Ethiopians released from a group of five abducted British tourists and 13 Ethiopians said his captors were Eritreans, speaking publicly for the first time on Monday.

"I knew they were Eritreans because they were taking us towards the Eritrean border post and they also wore Eritrean army uniforms," said Hussein Idriss, who was presented to journalists by Ethiopian soldiers and police.

"I heard noises when four Eritreans were beating people," said Idriss of the moment when the group was attacked in the early hours of Thursday morning at Hamed Ala in the far north of Ethiopia, near the Eritrean border.

"I tried to intervene but I couldn't. They managed to stop me and took me along with the other captives," said Idriss, who owns a shop in Hamed Ala in the remote Afar region.

"My toe was injured and I was weakened," he added.

"The captives begged them to let me go and after walking for 25km-30km towards the Eritrean border, they released me."

Ethiopia's state news agency reported Saturday that five of 13 kidnapped Ethiopians had been picked up near the Eritrean border.

The president of Afar, Ismail Ali Sero, on Saturday accused Eritrean soldiers of the abduction.

Eritrea immediately denied the allegation, and other Ethiopian officials have been more circumspect.

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

Despite a peace deal after a 1998-'00 war, the two have yet to define the status of their 1 000-km frontier.

- SAPA

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