Aid workers taken hostage in Darfur freed

2011-04-14 14:04
Khartoum - Twelve Sudanese aid workers taken hostage by refugees this week in the volatile Kalma camp in Darfur have been released, a spokesperson for the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission (Unamid) said on Thursday.

The aid workers were taken hostage on April 11 in retaliation for the arrest of a refugee last week by national security forces. Humanitarian groups suspended operations in the camp after the hostages were taken.

Millions have been driven from their homes into camps and an estimated 300 000 people have been killed in Sudan's western Darfur region, according to the United Nations, since mostly non-Arab rebels rose up in 2003 against Khartoum, which mobilised militia to quash the revolt.

"The aid workers have been released and are in good condition," said Unamid spokesperson Chris Cycmanick.

They were released late on Wednesday after the United Nations mediated to resolve the situation, he said.

Kalma Camp in south Darfur is one of the most politicised camps in the region, housing tens of thousands who fled the fighting and refuse to go home until it is safe to do so.

Violence has fallen from its peaks in 2003 and 2004 in Darfur, but a collapse in law and order has allowed gangs of armed men to rape, loot and kill with impunity.

The Darfur aid operation, the world's largest, has been hampered by government obstruction, expulsions, kidnappings and insecurity. The Unamid this week said patrols to areas where rebels and the Sudanese army have clashed had been hindered by government officials denying access and logistical difficulties.

In 2009, the government expelled 13 of the largest international aid agencies from Darfur and information on the aid operation has since been sparse, with remaining aid workers scared to speak out about conditions in the region.

The agencies were thrown out after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes in the region, charges he denies. Khartoum puts the death toll from the conflict in Darfur at 10 000.

Read more on:    un  |  sudan  |  east africa

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