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Deadly attack on European tourists

Gunmen in Ethiopia's arid north have attacked a group of European tourists travelling in one of the world's lowest and hottest regions, killing five, wounding two and kidnapping two.

Ethiopia called the outrage "an act of open terrorism" and said the gunmen came from neighbouring Eritrea and attacked the tourist group before dawn on Tuesday. A British diplomat later said it was possible one UK tourist was among the group which was attacked. Three Ethiopians were also taken hostage. Eritrea denied it was involved.

Austrian, Belgian, German, Hungarian and Italian nationals were among those in the group, Ethiopian communications minister Bereket Simon said.

Two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian were among the five killed, according to an Interpol report cited by the spokesman for Hungary's prime minister. Two Belgians were seriously hurt and two Italians escaped unharmed, the report said. Two Germans were kidnapped.

Austria's foreign ministry confirmed that an Austrian man from the province of Upper Austria was among the five dead. Germany's foreign minister also confirmed two German deaths and said 12 other people were flown to safety by helicopter.

Those wounded in the attack arrived in Addis Ababa on Wednesday night, where they were met by embassy personnel. One victim had to be moved in a wheelchair. Others covered their faces to avoid being photographed by journalists. A diplomat said that the victims did not want to make any statements to the media and said that they had had "a very hard time".

Ethiopia offered its condolences to the families of victims and said it would "do everything possible to try and get those taken prisoner released as soon as possible", a government statement said.

"It is already clear that the attack was carried out with the direct involvement of the Eritrean government. There is a fear that the people who have been kidnapped might be taken across the border into Eritrea," the statement said.

Ethiopia said it suspected the attack was linked to an upcoming African Union summit in Addis Ababa later this month. It said the attack showed that the international community "must now get serious about the destabilising role of the Eritrean regime in the region".

The tourists were visiting a volcanic region in Ethiopia's northern Afar region, which lies below sea level and is known for its intense heat and picturesque salt flats.

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