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Ethiopian Rebels Kidnap 9 on Relief Mission

March 04, 1985|From Reuters

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Rebels on Sunday seized a French disaster-relief aircraft, its five crew members and four medical staff members in the northern town of Lalibela, diplomats reported.

The crew was released later in the day and allowed to return aboard the aircraft to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, but the fate of the medical team was not immediately known, the French Ministry of External Relations announced in Paris early today.

The plane, a French air force Transall turboprop, was flying supplies for Ethiopian villagers as part of the international effort to relieve the disastrous drought and famine.

The identity of the rebel group was not immediately known, but diplomats here said it was probably the Tigre People's Liberation Front, a regional autonomy group active against the central government. The diplomats said it was not clear how the plane was seized. The Tigre rebels have in the past kidnaped relief workers, then freed them unharmed.

The medical team captured Sunday consists of two doctors and two nurses working for the French relief agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).

In Paris, a spokesman for the agency said four foreign voluntary relief workers were in Lalibela, 190 miles north of Addis Ababa in Wollo province. Lalibela was captured by the Tigre liberation group for about two weeks last October.

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