Ethiopia rebels 'release Germans'

Police standing guard on Erta Ale volcano [February 2005] The Erta Ale volcano in the Afar desert of Ethiopia is an attraction for more adventurous tourists

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Ethiopian rebels say they have released two German tourists who were taken captive during a gun-battle in January.

Five other Europeans were killed when the rebels ambushed their tour in the Afar desert in the north of the country six weeks ago.

In a statement the rebels apologised to the two surviving tourists for their ordeal, and said they'd been handed over to local Ethiopian elders.

The German and Ethiopian authorities have not confirmed their release.

The Germans were seized during an attack on a group of tourists in January near a volcano in the Danakil Depression, a remote region of north-eastern Ethiopia.

Two other Germans, two Austrians and a Hungarian were killed.

The violence is the worst involving visitors to the region in recent years, and is believed to have discouraged some tourists from visiting the area.

The rebels, from the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front, or Arduf, has blamed the government for the five deaths, by attacking them after the tourists had been captured.

Arduf says it is fighting for greater autonomy from the central government; it has blamed neighbouring Eritrea for backing the Afar rebels.

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