Ethiopian Rebels Free Six Relief Workers
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Six European relief workers abducted by rebels in Ethiopia’s northern Tigre province were released Monday and are in good condition, spokesmen for a Belgian medical organization reported.
They said the doctors and nurses were seized Thursday in Tigre where separatists have been fighting the Marxist government for years.
Reginald Moreels, president of the Belgian branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), told a news conference the victims were Belgian doctors Germaine Hanquet and Michel Moreau, Dutch nurse Roland Raaijmaekers an Irish doctor and two Irish nurses.
Moreels said they were released in Adigrat, 12 miles north of Idaga Hamous where the aid organization has been operating a hospital for three years.
News of their release was reported to Brussels by Dr. Pierre Harze, who had been sent to Ethiopia to try to gain their freedom.
Morrels said Harze had not yet met with the six.
Jean-Pierre Luxen, director of the Belgian organization, said the two Belgian doctors would go to northern city of Asmara and return to Belgium later this week. He said other doctors would replace them at the hospital in Idaga Hamous, 340 miles north of the capital of Addis Ababa.
Luxen said the medical team was abducted without violence by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Tigre who also seized the group’s vehicle and medical supplies.
Seyoum Musse, an official with the Popular Front’s office in London, had announced earlier Monday that the six had been released.
In a telephone interview in London, he said: ″The whole aim of taking them with us was to show there are millions of people who are beyond the reach of ... isolated symbolic (government) food distribution centers like the one they were stationed at.
″The aim is to dispel the government’s misinformation that millions are being reached with aid,″ he added.
He said the government will not allow foreign relief volunteers ″to go outside the place they work. For this reason we have taken them a few hours away. They are the guests of millions of starved people.″
Medicins San Frontieres is an international non-governmental organization that has medical aid projects in 15 countries in Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.