Armed men dispatched from Eritrea killed a German tourist in Erta Ale, northeast of Ethiopia on Sunday, according to HornAffairs sources.
Erta Ale, located in Afar region, is an active volcano site and one of the hottest places on earth, and known by the Afar as the “smoking mountain” and “the gateway to hell”.
The armed group ambushed the tourist site on Sunday evening around 10 pm and clashed with Afar special police patrolling the area, according to HornAffairs sources. The area is about an hour or two distance on foot from the Eritrean border.
The clash involved lengthy “gun shots and bomb explosions”, a tour guide described to HornAffairs on condition of anonymity.
The German tourist and his Ethiopian tour guide were walking downhill to the volcano area, after parking their vehicle at Askoma and walking to the top of the hill surrounding the volcano, at the time, according to HornAffairs source.
According to one source, the two didn’t quickly took a hiding, while other tourists and guides did. Another source claimed, the German and his guide were half way through and couldn’t have found a hiding quickly.
The normal practice of the area is that a tourist or a tour group is accompanied by at least one local police officer, a militia man and a local road guide, in addition to the professional tour guide.
It appears the German tourist was travelling with a tour guide only, preceded and followed by other groups. The other groups took cover and remained there untill the morning while the two were not able to do likewise quickly.
According to accounts of the incident in the area, the armed group managed to infiltrate the area amidst the heavy shooting and confusion. Though, they didn’t control the area.
The Ethiopian tour guide was shot and wounded when he ran away refusing a call to stop, according to a local source. The German was similarly running when he was fatally shot by bullet.
One source claimed that an Ethiopian was abducted, but multiple sources doubted the information saying that they “were not informed of any abducted person”.
Ethiopian military officers arrived by helicopters hours later. The tour groups were made to remain in their places until noon time, as the Afar special police and the army officers combed the area.
The incident was the first of its kind in five years.
In January 2012, an Eritrean-based armed group, ARDUF, killed five Europeans (two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian) in that area and abducted two Germans to its base in Eritrea. The incident led to an Ethiopian military attack on Eritrea two months later.
A local official told HornAffairs, ARDUF had threatened about ten days ago that it would disrupt the Constitution and Nationalities day to be celebrated in the region this week. We were not able to verify if there were threats from ARDUF.
ARDUF didn’t take responsibility for the Sunday incident at the time of the writing of this news.