Ethiopia: 'Missing tourists held by kidnappers'

A European tour group that went missing last week is "safe and secure" but being held by unknown kidnappers near the disputed border of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ethiopia's foreign minister said. "Last evening I heard they are safe and secure," Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin told The Associated Press Friday, citing tribesman in the remote, hostile region who say they have seen the group. "They are in good condition. We don't even know yet who the kidnappers are." Seyoum said tribal elders had reported the group was in the Afar region, which straddles the border of Ethiopia and archrival Eritrea, and that they appeared to be well. While the region's ancient salt mines and volcanoes offer a spectacular, moonlike landscape for tourists, bandits operate there and tourists must have armed guides. The group - five employees of the British Embassy in Addis Ababa or their relatives - were abducted along with 13 Ethiopian drivers or translators March 1. Four of the Europeans are believed to be British citizens, including one of Italian origin; the other is French. Five of the Ethiopians are believed to have escaped or been released.