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Shifting Alliances: The Killing And Kidnapping Of European Tourists

On Tuesday, January 17, 2012, five European tourists were killed in Northern Ethiopia’s Afar Region, which borders Eritrea.

Ethiopia claims that the attack was carried by gunmen stationed in, and supported by, Eritrea.  The Eritrean envoy to the AU denied the accusation.

The Ethiopian government was referring to Qafar Uguugumoh Demokrasiyyoh Inkiinoh Fooca [Uguugumoh for short; or Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF for short)], a rebel group whose goal is to unite Afar nationalities of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti under one political entity. Although, technically, Uguugumoh should be in confrontation against all three governments, its attacks have concentrated only on Ethiopian forces.

The five killed tourists include two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian. Two others were wounded, an Italian and a Hungarian. Four people were captured and taken by the attackers.

Uguugumoh (ARDUF) claims that the tourists were killed in an attack initiated by the Ethiopian security forces.

In a statement it issued on January 21, ARDUF confirmed that the two German tourists and two Ethiopian soldiers captured in the attack were in its custody. It also stated that “Ethiopia’s continuous fresh attack on its forces has stifled the release of the captured tourists” warning “If these two remaining German [tourists] are killed in the fighting, [the] Ethiopian regime” would be responsible.

On February 8, 2012, ARDUF issued another press release where it claimed to have clashed with Ethiopian forces and killed several troops and destroyed vehicles. ARDUF also repeated its earlier warning that, “If these two remaining German nations are killed in the fighting, [the] Ethiopian regime will bear another responsibility for the killing of European nationals, as the regime was responsible for the previous killings of 5 European[s] on 17th January 2012, in Erta Ale, Afar region.”

ARDUF also stated that it would “release the two German citizens unconditionally, as soon as the Afar Elders arrive to the designated area to receive them. Meanwhile, any groups or individuals who claim facilitating the release of these two people should not be trusted by concerned authority.”

Afar tribal elders from the region have been trying to secure the release of the two Germans with no success so far. The elders have been instrumental in releasing several kidnapped tourist in the past.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia has warned the international community that unless it takes action to restrain Eritrea, it would take action to protect itself.

According to the Algiers Peace Agreement, Eritrea and Ethiopia were to have a 25-km buffer zone, monitored by the United Nations, along their common border until the area was demarcated. The UN monitors (UNMEE) were placed in 2001. The Ethiopian government would not agree to demarcate the border in accordance with the terms of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) unless the fate of the people and the villages in the border area are resolved first through a dialogue with the Eritrean government. The Eritrean Government rejected Ethiopia’s call for dialogue and insisted on demarcating the border as per the ruling of the EEBC. That deadlock resulted in EEBC’s decision to “virtually demarcate” the border. Subsequently the Eritrean government initiated a campaign to make the work of UNMEE so difficult that it had to withdraw. The border, now, is entirely un-monitored and it takes only a trigger action to restart the conflict.


This is not the first time that ARDUF has taken Europeans as prisoners. On March 1st 2007, five Britons, all employees of the British Foreign Office, along with 8 of their local tour guides, were kidnapped from Hameid Eila (village bordering Eritrea) by ARDUF. The police chief of the local government reported that the kidnapped had been taken to Weima, a military base in Eritrea. The Britons were released two weeks later, after Afar elders negotiated their release and surrendered them to the Eritrean government. The Ethiopian hostages were held for two more weeks, then released.

The chairman of ARDUF, Mussa Ibrahim, who was visiting Eritrea was quoted by Eritrea’s Ministry of Information saying that “even now it [ARDUF] would take similar measures against any foreigner who ventures into the same area” and “warned foreigners not do so without permission from the Front.”

The Ethiopian government saw this as clear evidence of collusion between ARDUF and Eritrea.

The accusation and counter accusation of the Eritrean and Ethiopian government is a far cry from the 1990s. In March 1995, ARDUF (or its predecessor) was accused of kidnapping Italian aid workers in the Afar region. At the time, the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments were close allies, with a mutual defense agreement, and the two co-operated closely in the hunt for ARDUF rebels. The Ethiopian government’s “hot pursuit” sometimes resulted in crossing the Eritrean border, an issue that came to light when the mail exchanges between Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and President Isaias Afwerki were shared with Eritrean state media shortly after the ignition of their border war in 1998.

Throughout the two-year border war, ARDUF declared a “unilateral ceasefire with the government of Ethiopia.” In a statement its Executive Committee issued, ARDUF stated that its goal had always been to liberate the Afars of the Western Red Sea “from the military occupation of the EPLF [Eritrean government] and incorporate the region with its mother land” and that it had only been the Ethiopian government’s “short-sighted military accord and unholy alliance with the EPLF government of Eritrea” that forced its hand.

Since 1991, then, there has been a shifting alliance between the three entities:

1991 – 1997:      Eritrean and Ethiopian government versus ARDUF
1998 – 2003:      Ethiopian government and ARDUF versus Eritrea
2004 – present:   Eritrean government and ARDUF versus Ethiopian government

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  • Selam :- Brothers and sisters of Gedab News. Sure, in these days, many strange things are happening. After the UN sanctions it seems that the PFDJ dictator once again is using his trouble making tactics. Now it was time again for ARDUF to kidnap and kill tourists from Ethiopian territory. And they disappeared again. Like in March 2007, the same methods were used. And as we remember, the PFDJ bandit regime declared that they have nothing to do with the kidnapping of the Britons, but later on, they were released inside our country Eritrea. Once again the PFDJ are saying that they have nothing to do with the kidnapping of the two German tourists. Now, every one will see where they will be released and I believe that this is exactly what the Ethiopian government is waiting for. They want to hold something in their hands to prove it to the international community. It is not a secret that the dictator is one of the greatest liars and cheaters and he showed it many times. And because of his morbid character he used our country Eritrea as protective barrier and our population as bullet swallower many times. Now, I heard from family members who read articles of, that Mohammed Ali Ibrahim, a member of the People’s Democratic Party, disappeared. Knowing about the incursions of PFDJ bandits in Sudan, it wouldn’t surprise me if he got kidnapped but I hope that these are false news. I hope that 2012 will be like 2011 when the dictators were chased and crashed for good.


    • Kokhob Selam

      wow nice to see your massage again. I miss your informative comments brother Exciter . As you can see this mafia group is still alive but weak and at the end of it’s life never its crime “amel ms megnez”. This time even EDP who are trying to solve peacefully…. another lesson that shows PFDJ don’t know peace. Action should be taken over those PFDJ coward leaders and that is the only way out. When they take one, take from them ten and you will see them as usual kneeling down.

      • Selam :- Brother Kokhob selam, as always, nice to read your replies. It is amazing, every time the same when it is about PFDJ. The years go away but the dictator won’t ever learn how to work in a peacefully, diplomatic way. I ask myself if one can claim that from a 64 years old dictator. Sure, in a biological way one can expect it because the learning process ends with the death but when it comes to our bandit dictator and his PFDJ supporters, then I have to say that there is no hope. It seems that the only thing he knows is the entrance and the exit of the Sahel Mountain. One knew the killings and kidnappings only from the Somalis: Al Shabaab and/or the pirates. Now, when some one disappears in the horn of Africa, the world community not only stares at Somalia but also to Eritrea, thanks to the idiocy of our dictator. One can not solve a border problem with the neighbor by supporting rebels or kidnapping and killing tourists but through peacefully dialogues. A sovereign leader doesn’t support rebels like ARDUF, who kill tourists, by giving them sanctuary but he would distance himself and kick them out. Political problems can not be solved by arresting members of the British maritime security and then denying to know anything about them or confiscating Yemeni fisher boats.
        That all is the work of a mafia syndicate it has nothing to do with politics and the PFDJ are a mafia clique. They destroyed the good reputation of our country in only 20 years. Unbelievable.


  • zegeremo

    Thank you AWATE.COM ! I will donate as soon as my paycheck arrives, I promise.

    • rodab

      Oh…you are so sweet!

      • zegeremo

        Have you donated already? It seems you are digging free articles everyday, not few times a year.

        • rodab

          I will do that as soon as my paycheck arrives.

          • zegeremo

            Oh…you are so sweet! 🙂

  • Henok

    Awate is the best Eritrean website. Question to the admin, what happened to “Belly of the Beast” reporter. It has been a while since we hear of him/her. I hope he/she is alright.

  • I wonder always if people have any trust from so callad Eritrea opposition any more/time when it is a political comment on their little website.have we must say Salih is very sharp,Salih is a pure Eritrean who fight against all odds and anybody force us to say awate is a prefect side page?
    will we right only positive on this site,what about a weak point on thos persons day in and day out are here and wrote nasty and garbage comment over the very dignty people of Ertra?
    I gusse thats way people are not often to add their thinke
    r here .Your solo slogen is free speach and non border line press in Eritrea,but,where is here and why not you start with your own image now?

    • Kokhob Selam

      weak points ?Let it be there, why you hate that? it is only when it comes to surface you know and aknowledge it and correct it. here in Awate you don’t have to perfect but be the real you and say it with out hiding. I have experianced this in awate and corrected my weaknes and yet I have to learn a lot. This is Awate. once you come deep and see you will use every chance to express all what you have. you can cry and shout and they will let you know in different ways where your problme is. some time they do it directly and some time indirectly but they will let the massage reach you. They are from differnt back ground and they know what that does mean. they have the commone home, that should be kept clean for all. Get the train now and join as toward advanced Eritrea. tks

  • Now ,I think awate is also a nationaist wibsite when it cames about our commen interst and problem.Our main enemey is the Ethiopian gvt and we must be unity at that point.Our inside problem is “dagmawi” and the only can solv that are we.
    Woayne is very danger for all,for himself,Tigria,the rest of Ethiopia,Eritrea and the horn Africa.Be bold and carefully.

  • Sam

    I don’t think this is accurate. The ARDUF has always been backed by the Eritrean government, even during those times Eritrea and Ethiopia supposedly had good reltations. The Eritrean government has always backed this terrorist group even during those early days when Isayas was pretending it is a good neighbor which behaves according to the International law. Isayas has always engaged in destebelaizing the region — always. He just fooled some people for a while, even the Ethiopian government.

    • Saleh AA Younis


      Do you know who “Dagmawi” is? He is an Ethiopian web pioneer and about the only thing he hated more than his government (Weyane) was the government that his government was at war with (shabiyah, as he called it.) In any event, he was the go-to guy in the late 1990. This press release by ARDUF, which was sent to anyone with a recognizable email address, was published in his website in June 1998, after the Alitena war:

      1. ARDUF not only condemns the aggression of the Eritrean Government Forces on Tigray but also declares unilateral cease fire with the Government of Ethiopia

      2. Setting aside its political differences with the TPLF/EPRDF regime, ARDUF invites the Afar National State for constructive dialogue to seek means and ways to protect the Afar people and minimise civilian causalities in this war that is imposed on the region.

      3. ARDUF calls on the Ethiopian political forces in opposition and the regime of TPLF/EPRDF to engage in a meaningful political dialogue.

      4. ARDUF calls on the international community to make its pressures felt on the Eritrean government seek non military means for its internal political and economic problems.

      As for the Eritrea-Ethiopia co-operation in the campaign against ARDUF, refer to the 1997 letters between Isaias and Meles that were made public in 1998:

      The link is here:

      • Sam

        I belieive it is Eritrean and its tool — ARDUF — fake press releases. By the way Saleh, I don’t know what you mean “Weyane” government?? Don’t you know Meles wouldn’t be PM if he was not chosen by elected representatives that came from all regions of the nation?? And don’t you know in a democracy anyone from anywhere can be chosen to be the national leader??

        I know the some extremists beleive a national leader should come only from a spcific region.

        Moderator: What do you mean by the following: “…I don’t know what you mean “Weyane” government??”

        • Kokhob Selam

          What is wrong in calling Weyane government if the government’s Source is Weyane? No doubt, Weyane are struggling and advancing bit by bit toward democracy. And of course I can’t compare with the childish group we have in Asmara. What we have in Eritrea (PFDJ) don’t represent any one. There is nothing to count positively. But that doesn’t mean Weyane is real democratic.
          While I admire they way they handle things, but they are still Weyane , yet, I know that you may say “adgi Zeyblu Beqku yeNashu’ so, I will not underestimate Meles’s and his group qualification.
          Some political parties are not still participating, for example EPRP . I know EPRP for more than 35 years and they have never surrendered till today in spite of all those attractive developments in Ethiopia. Although EPRP is the victim and badly hearted by Shaebia and Weyane, if there was a real central democratic government they could have gone for reconciliation. But they didn’t compromise their principle and even they didn’t get help form PFDJ as they don’t want temporary victory.
          So, if we Eritrean people are suffering of PFDJ, that doesn’t mean we will say something which is not true just to make “Weyane” happy.
          that is my personal belief.

          • Sam

            Kokhob Selam:

            “Some political parties are not still participating, for example EPRP”

            Democracy doesn’t mean every single group or individual must or can be invloved. Any political group or politician must first agree to abide by the Constitution to qualify for participation in any country’s politics. For instance, no one in America can form a political party affiliated with — let’s say — with Al-Qaeda, or aa Nazi party in Germany.

  • rodab

    The credibility of Awate’s news & news analysis is very good – specially compared to state & privately owned Eritrea media. The only problem is, it comes few times a year 🙂
    Still, I prefer quality over quantity…

    • Tesfa

      I am not the best friend of, but wenn it comes to the comparisen of the Eritrean web site, then awate is the best and most objective and substantial at all. This is true!

  • Kokhob Selam

    Good observation, I am wondering of how politics works. as for me none of the three above can be trusted. who knows we may see another cycle in the future if the mass don’t push them all.

  • haile

    Interesting news analysis. Is it now plausible to declare that is the only Eritrean online media outlet that reports rationally and objectively? I can’t think of any news source as objective and dispassionate as when presenting news articles!

    • Yes indeed! You have it. Who else do we have? Even the haters know that.

      • haile

        Agreed. I must also add that my point was not meant to flatter on the cheap. I have really tried to judge all the pro and against government (PFDJ) media outlets. We can go and review’s reporting habits. It tends to cut the none sense, sharply focuses on the objective and verifiable aspects and doesn’t seem to bank much on cheap politicking. I would like to be fair to any Eritrean media outlet, but in all honesty I couldn’t find a single one that would much the ‘fearless’ agenda promoted by I shall be putting my money where my mouth is, too. I fully understand this kind of work doesn’t just appear from the fresh air, much hard work and resource is put to realize it.

        • Kokhob Selam

          I don’t find words to express my feelings of this site. Awate is small real Eritrea. Oppostion all should come arround this site and exploite the wisdom for the advantage of our people. I don’t think I am exagrating if I say there is an inteligent leadership to be found inside this site. But honestly speaking we still need to support Awate and work hard to let every Eritrea notice this. appricating the great minds and let them know we notice should be our culture, one of the cultures PFDj has killed. I love you awate.