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Africa

Officials claims kidnapped aid workers in Darfur in 'good shape'

Latest update : 2009-04-06

The two French and Canadian women working for the Aide Medicale Internationale, kidnapped in the Darfur region of Sudan, are said to be in "good shape", according to Sudanese officials. The Media Centre reported an unconfirmed ransom demand.

AFP - Sudanese authorities are working to free two French and Canadian aid workers who are "in good shape" after being kidnapped at the weekend in increasingly dangerous Darfur, an official said on Monday.
   
"They are in good shape," foreign ministry official Ali Yussef told AFP. "We are making every effort to free them in a peaceful way."
   
The two international female staff from Aide Medicale Internationale (AMI) were abducted at Ed el-Fursan in southern Darfur on Saturday night, said the French group, which has been targeted twice so far this year.
   
Two Sudanese AMI staff were also kidnapped and later released, a local official said.
   
The Sudanese Media Centre, which is close to the country's intelligence services, has said the kidnappers were demanding a ransom, but this was not possible to confirm.
   
The so far unidentified women were snatched on Saturday night from AMI offices south of South Darfur's capital Nyala, and around 100 kilometres (65 miles) from the border with Chad, a local official said, requesting anonymity.
   
AMI said it "strongly deplores this kidnapping of members of its team who work daily to improve the health of the local population."
   
The group, which has been providing medical relief in Ed el-Fursan since 2004, was spared from Khartoum's decision last month to expel several non-governmental aid organisations from Darfur.
   
"We were continuing our programme, we weren't targeted," said Frederic Mar, a spokesman for AMI.
   
The French authorities were alerted and the foreign ministry in Paris set up a crisis response cell to deal with the kidnapping, saying it was acting because the incident involved a French organisation.
   
Canada's foreign affairs department said it was seeking information about the kidnapping.
   
Sudan expelled 13 aid agencies after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on March 4 for President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes including genocide in Darfur.
   
Two Sudanese workers for AMI were shot dead when their bus was attacked by men on horseback in February in southern Darfur. Four others were wounded in that attack.
   
On March 23, a Sudanese man working for a Canadian aid group was shot dead at his home in Darfur, reportedly because his attackers wanted his satellite telephone.
   
Four workers with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), three of them foreigners, were kidnapped at gunpoint from their Darfur home on March 11.
   
They were all released four days later, with no signs of violence or a ransom being paid, Sudanese and MSF officials said.
   
That abduction was the first of international aid workers since civil war erupted in Darfur in 2003, and took place just 10 days after the ICC issued the arrest warrant for Beshir.
   
"This is a very worrying new phenomenon," a source familiar with the security situation in Darfur told AFP, requesting anonymity. "This is a new trend towards humanitarian actors in Darfur."
   
The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government and its militia allies.
   
Over the past six years, the rebels have fractured into multiple movements and the war has widened into overlapping tribal conflicts, making the region increasingly dangerous for humanitarian relief efforts.
   
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease and about 2.7 million have fled their homes. Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000.

Date created : 2009-04-06

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