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Darfur Hostages (Drs. Without Borders Members) Not Freed Yet

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Author Topic: Darfur Hostages (Drs. Without Borders Members) Not Freed Yet  (Read 29 times)
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« on: March 14, 2009, 08:46:03 am »

                                            Darfur hostages not freed yet: official

March 14, 2009

Three foreign aid workers taken hostage in the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan "have not been freed yet" but will be "released soon," a high-ranking Sudanese official said Saturday.

"They have not been released. They will be very soon. They are in good shape," the official, who asked not to be named, told AFP. Foreign ministry spokesman Ali Sadiq said he "hoped" they would be released during the day.

The Italian doctor, Canadian nurse and French administrator with the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) were kidnapped at gunpoint on Wednesday in Saraf Umra, in North Darfur.

MSF said on Friday it had received assurances from the Sudanese authorities that the aid workers had been released although it had not seen or had any direct contact with them.

A short statement by the Italian foreign ministry and carried by the Italian ANSA news agency on Friday announced the three had been freed but gave no details.

But on Saturday, the ministry said it had not been able to reach the aid workers.

"It was not possible to establish contact" with the volunteers, it said in a statement.

The Belgian branch of MSF, for whom the kidnapped trio were working, has treated the reports of the releases with caution.

"Nothing has changed since last evening," MSF spokesman Koen Baetens in Brussels said on Saturday, adding that MSF could not confirm the releases without having had contact with the three aid workers.

Canadian and French officials also indicated on Friday evening that they had received unconfirmed information that the hostages were released.

Italian MSF sources insisted that no ransom was paid for the hostages' release and that the kidnappers had made no political demands either.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini had on Friday hailed the releases as vindication for the low-profile response to the abductions taken by the authorities.

"Once again the decision to maintain a media silence and tight coordination between different institutions have made possible this expected and significant outcome," he said.

North Darfur Governor Osman Mohammed Yusef Kabir said on Thursday that the kidnappers had demanded a ransom.

The identity of the kidnappers remained unclear although the Sudanese foreign ministry blamed "bandits" for the abduction.

The seizure of the aid workers dealt a fresh blow to relief efforts in Darfur where an estimated 2.7 million people have fled their homes during six years of conflict between ethnic minority rebels and the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.

Last week, the government expelled 13 foreign relief agencies after the International Criminal Court ordered President Omar al-Beshir's arrest for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, a move the United Nations warned would have a severe impact on aid distribution.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon again urged Khartoum to rescind the expulsion order and said he was "deeply concerned" by the abductions.

Since the issue of the warrant -- the court's first against a sitting head of state -- the United Nations and United States have warned of security problems in Sudan and threats to foreign targets.

Thirty workers with MSF left Darfur for Khartoum, a spokeswoman said on Friday, adding that the rest of the group's 35 workers had stayed behind to support their captive colleagues.

MSF's Dutch and French chapters were among the 13 groups ordered out of Darfur by the Sudanese government.

The UN says 300,000 people have died since the conflict erupted there in 2003. Khartoum puts the figure at 10,000.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2009, 08:46:33 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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