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Kidnappers to kill aid workers unless Zoe's Ark abduction trial reopens

Video by Marian HENBEST

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-04-13

A man claiming to have kidnapped two aid workers has threatened to kill them in a telephone interview with FRANCE 24 unless France retries the Zoe's Ark members who were convicted but later pardoned for abducting children from Chad in 2007.

In an interview with FRANCE 24, a presumed member of the “African Eagles of freedom” or the “Eagles of the African liberation” militant group, called on “the French government to quickly negotiate with [his organisation] without going through the Sudanese authorities.”

The presumed militant, who calls himself Abou Mohamed, warned that if the French authorities did not negotiate directly with his group then the two aid workers, a Canadian and a French national, who were taken hostage on April 4, would be quickly executed.

The hostage-takers condemned what they call “the agreement” between Paris and Chad’s government over the release of French aid workers who had smuggled over 100 children out of eastern Chad and presented them as orphans from Darfur late 2007. The militant group demands that the “guilty parties be imprisoned, that justice be made and that our families whose children were kept in France be compensated.”

The members of the French aid agency Arche de Zoé were condemned to eight years of hard labour and were then pardoned by Chad President Idriss Deby in March 2008.

In Paris, the foreign affairs minister and the government have refused to comment on the incident. “We never comment on such cases,” said a foreign affairs spokesperson. The head of the Arche de Zoé organisation, Eric Breteau, said he would agree to a second trial if this could secure the release of the hostages.

Hostages ‘well-treated’

The kidnappers allowed their abductees to make a couple of comments on Sunday. In an interview with FRANCE 24, Claire Dubois, a French citizen, said: “We have been well-treated, we have food and drink and have suffered no abuses.” Dubois appeared to be speaking without fear or fatigue but under the control of her kidnappers. She added that she hoped “the situation would be peacefully resolved and that she would be allowed to go home as quickly as possible.”

Dubois and the Canadian citizen Stéphanie Joidon, two employees of the aid agency Aide Medicale Internationale (AMI), were seized at gunpoint from their compound in the south Darfur settlement of Ed el Fursan on April 4.

The ICC arrest warrant heightens tensions

Tensions have risen in Sudan since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir over alleged war crimes in Darfur and Bashir ordered the expulsion of 16 aid groups. France supports the arrest warrant issued against the Sudanese leader.

The abduction of the AMI employees is the second since the Bashir arrest warrant was issued on March 4. On March 11, five members of the French NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – a French, a Canadian, an Italian and two Sudanese nationals – were abducted in Darfur and released three days later.


Date created : 2009-04-12