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French aid worker kidnapped in Darfur, Red Cross says

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-10-23

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday that a French employee had been kidnapped in Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur. Sudanese officials say the abducted worker is in "good health".

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday that a French employee had been kidnapped in Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur.

Darfur has long been a dangerous posting for aid groups, which have repeatedly seen their employees kidnapped and held for ransom.

"We can confirm the abduction of one of our employees in the vicinity of El-Geneina," capital of West Darfur state, ICRC spokeswoman Tamara al-Rifai said in Khartoum.

The man was identified as Gauthier Lefevre.

The ICRC in Geneva said the kidnapping occurred around midday as Lefevre and other ICRC staff were returning to El-Geneina "after completing a field trip north of the town to help local communities upgrade their water supply systems".

"He was travelling in one of two clearly marked ICRC vehicles when he was seized a few kilometres from the town."

The ICRC said it has no indication of who the abductors might be or of their motives. It said it is "in contact with the authorities and other parties with the aim of resolving the situation as swiftly as possible.

It called for the "rapid and unconditional release of its kidnapped staff member."

On Sunday, two female aid workers, Irish national Sharon Commins and Ugandan Hilda Kawuki, were freed after 107 days of captivity in Darfur.

They were kidnapped on July 3 from a compound run by Irish aid group GOAL by a gang of armed men in the town of Kutum. The two women's captivity was the longest endured by foreign aid staff in Darfur since the conflict erupted in early 2003.

Two civilian employees of the UN-African Union joint peacekeeping force in Darfur kidnapped in August at Zalingei in west Darfur are still in the hands of their abductors.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels in Darfur rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in February 2003.

The government says 10,000 people have been killed.

The latest kidnapping comes after US President Barack Obama on Monday unveiled a new policy of engagement with Sudan, but warned Khartoum to expect a tough response if it ignored fresh incentives to improve the situation in Darfur.

Abandoning past attempts to isolate Sudan, Obama and top diplomats laid out a new carrot-and-stick approach aimed also at ensuring that a 2005 peace deal is fully implemented and that it does not become a "safe haven for terrorists".

"We are looking to achieve results through broad engagement and frank dialogue," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters.

Date created : 2009-10-22