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In 2008, Ethiopia foiled a kidnapping attempt on a group of 28 French tourists in the area.

“The problem is, there is no infrastructure in the area, no telephone lines; satellite phones barely work,” Mr. Launsky-Tiefenthal said, comparing the remote area to “the surface of Mars.”

Associated Press writers George Jahn in Vienna, Austria; Pablo Gorondi in Budapest; and Anita Powell in Johannesburg contributed to this report.