Two kidnapped aid workers freed after 100 days' captivity

Two members of Irish aid agency GOAL who had been kidnapped in Darfur in July were freed Sunday "in good health," according to a Sudanese minister, who added that "no ransom was paid."


AFP - Two members of Irish aid agency GOAL kidnapped in Sudan's conflict stricken Darfur region in July were freed early Sunday after more than 100 days in captivity, a Sudan minister told AFP.

"They are free, they are in good health," said state humanitarian affairs minister Abdel Baqi Gilani.

Irish national Sharon Commins and Ugandan Hilda Kawuki were kidnapped in the North Darfur town of Kutum on July 3. They were taken by a gang of armed men from a compound run by GOAL.

"No ransom was paid," Gilani stressed, adding that local tribal chiefs had pressured the kidnappers to free their hostages.

Gilani said the two women were in Kutum and were due later Sunday to fly to Khartoum before returning to their respective countries.

"We are all relieved," John O'Shea, president of GOAL told AFP.

"We don't yet know when they will go home but we hope it is as soon as possible," he said by telephone.

The two aid workers spent over 100 days in captivity, the longest endured by foreign aid staff in Darfur since the conflict erupted in the western region in early 2003.

Until March, no aid worker had been held in Darfur for longer than 24 hours.

However, the International Criminal Court in March issued an arrest warrant against President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes in Darfur, triggering a sharp downturn in Sudan's relations with foreign relief organisations.

Two members of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres MSF) and French aid agency Aide medicale internationale (AMI) had been kidnapped in March and April then released after spending three days and 26 days respectively in captivity.

Sudanese authorities had not punished those responsible for the kidnap which shook the aid workers community in Darfur.

Gilani said on Sunday that the kidnappers of the latest kidnapping must be brought to justice.

"They must be punished otherwise there will be no more order" in Darfur, he told AFP.

Two civil employees for the UN-AFrican Union joint peacekeeping force in Darfur kidnapped last August in Zalingei in west Darfur are still in the hands of their abductors. They are the only hostages still kidnapped in Darfur.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million 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.

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