News24

UN asks Sudan to hand over deminers

2012-05-06 18:57

Khartoum - The United Nations has asked Sudan to hand over four of its staffers who were arrested more than a week ago by Sudan's army along the tense southern border, a UN report said on Sunday.

"The four were UN staff who had been working on a humanitarian demining project in South Sudan. The UN has requested that the four staff be released and handed over into UN custody," said the weekly bulletin of the UN's humanitarian agency (OCHA).

Sudan's army said it arrested the South African, a South Sudanese, a Norwegian and a Briton in the Heglig oil region as they collected "war debris for investigation", and suggested the men were working in support of South Sudan in its "aggression" against the north.

The four are being held at a military facility in Khartoum.

South Sudan's ambassador, Kau Nak, told AFP that he welcomed the UN move.

"From my side it sounds good, because they were not working for the government of South Sudan," he said.

Another diplomatic source said they were waiting for Khartoum's response.

Sudan's foreign ministry could not immediately comment.

Feelings

A South African demining company said two of its workers, Thabo Siave and the South Sudanese, were among the group who became victims of an "abduction" by the Sudanese military while on a UN landmine clearance contract in South Sudan.

The foreign ministry said earlier that it told the Norwegian, British and South African ambassadors that their citizens are under investigation because they illegally crossed the border into a military area, and had military equipment with them.

Nationalist feeling has intensified in Sudan after South Sudan seized and occupied the north's main Heglig oilfield for 10 days, a move that coincided with Sudanese air strikes against the South.

It was the most serious fighting since the South's independence last July, and raised fears of a wider war.

Sudan declared on April 20 that its troops had forced the Southern soldiers out of Heglig, but the South said it withdrew of its own accord in line with international calls.

Both sides say they are complying with a UN Security Council resolution which ordered them to stop fighting from last Friday.