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Abducted aid workers are alive and treated well

Latest update : 2009-04-13

Two female aid workers - working on Sudan's border with Chad for a French charity - told AFP and FRANCE 24 over the phone that they were being treated well. Their abductors claim to have targeted France in retaliation for the 2007 Zoe's Ark fiasco.

AFP - Two female foreign aid workers, a Canadian and a French national, kidnapped in Darfur last week are alive and are being treated well, the Canadian hostage told AFP in a phone call on Sunday.

"We are being treated well. We do not know where we are," said the Canadian hostage, who identified herself as Stephanie Joidon, over a satellite phone.

Armed men had kidnapped the pair, who work for French aid group Aide Medicale Internationale, from their office in South Darfur's capital Nyala, about 100 kilometres (65 miles) from the border with Chad, on April 4.

The Canadian hostage, who did not sound under duress during the phone call, id entified her French colleague as Claire Dubois.

Their names, which have been published in the Sudanese media, have been confirmed by a Western source.

"We wish (our families) much courage. We hope that all ends well," Joidon said.

One of the kidnappers, who refused to give his name, named his group as the "Falcons for the Liberation of Africa", saying it was composed of former rebels and members of Arab tribes in Darfur.

He said a French group had been targetted to "send a message to the French government to try the people who kidnapped children from Chad."

Chadian authorities had arrested six workers with a French aid group in 2007 and accused of them of illegally trying to take 103 Darfuri children to France.

They were sentenced to eight years in jail, and then pardoned by the Chadian Prime Minister Idriss Deby Itno three months later.

"Our problem is with (French President) Nicolas Sarkozy and Idriss Deby," said the kidnapper.

A Sudanese foreign ministry official told AFP on Sunday the government was pursuing efforts to free the aid workers.

"We are working for a peaceful release of the hostages," said foreign ministry protocol chief Ali Yusef.

But a local Dafur official said the French negotiators and the aid group had assumed responsibility for the negotiations.

The kidnapping of the two aid workers was the second such act in Darfur since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on March 4 for Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes, including genocide, in Darfur.

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.

Sudan had expelled 13 aid agencies immediately after the ICC issued the warrant for Beshir.

In February, two Sudanese workers for AMI were shot dead when their bus was attacked by men on horseback 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.


Date created : 2009-04-12