3 UN workers kidnapped in Darfur

2011-01-13 16:45

Khartoum - Three helicopter crew members contracted to the UN World Food Programme were kidnapped in Darfur on Thursday, the agency said, the latest in a wave of abductions hindering aid in Sudan's war-torn region.

"Three helicopter crew members...managed by WFP have been abducted by armed an air strip today," WFP spokesperson Amor Almagro said.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said all three were Bulgarian nationals working for an aviation company contracted to the United Nations.

Darfur's insurgency has descended into chaos with rebel groups divided and militia mobilised by Khartoum breaking ranks. Clashes have escalated between guerrillas and the government and peace talks have floundered.

The lack of security and the kidnappings - more than a dozen abductions targeting foreign workers by young men demanding ransoms since 2009 - have hindered what is the world's largest humanitarian operation.

The three were taken from an air strip some 65km southeast of el-Geneina, capital of West Darfur state, WFP said.

All of those snatched in Darfur have been released safely without any injury to them. The kidnappings have been fuelled by reports of Khartoum paying ransoms, which it denies.

The Sudanese government has yet to apprehend any of those responsible for the kidnappings, despite officials having said they knew who the criminals were.