Kidnapped US woman freed in Darfur

2010-08-30 12:37

Khartoum - A female American aid worker abducted by gunmen in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur more than 100 days ago was freed on Monday, Sudan's foreign ministry said.

The woman, who works for US aid group Samaritan's Purse, was kidnapped in mid-May in the village of Abu Ajura, south Darfur, along with two Sudanese colleagues who were later released.

"She was freed a short while ago and is now at the home of the governor of South Darfur, in Nyala," ministry spokesperson Moawiya Osman said.

News of the woman's release came a day after at least two Russian helicopter crew members were abducted by gunmen in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state.

Sudan's army spokesperson, Sawarmi Khaled Saad said on Monday that two Russian pilots were seized on Sunday while Russia's Interfax news agency said that in fact three Russians - the captain of a Mi-8 helicopter and two crew members - were abducted.

In July, the woman, reached by telephone, told AFP that her situation had turned into a "nightmare".

"In the past it was okay, but now it is not. They are threatening me, my life, my health," said the woman.

"I am not safe now. I don't have clean water, the situation changed very quickly into a nightmare. There are 20 men around me now," she said.

Large sum of money

"I want to go home, I just hope they will release me."

The woman's identity was confirmed to AFP by Samaritan's Purse, but the aid group had requested that her name not be published.

It is the first time a Western woman has been held alone in Darfur.

Her abductors had asked for a large sum of money in exchange for her release.

"We have had talks with the Sudanese government, but nothing was reached. We have been holding her for nearly three months now," one of the kidnappers, identifying himself as Abu Mohammed al-Rizegui, said via satellite phone in July.

That name has been used several times by armed groups committing abductions in Darfur, notably in the kidnappings of two aid workers for French group Aide Medicale Internationale (AMI) in April 2009, and two employees of the French Triangle GH in the Central African Republic in October 2009.

Darfur has been gripped by civil war since 2003 that has left 300 000 people dead and 2.7 million displaced, according to the United Nations. Khartoum says 10 000 have been killed in the conflict.