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German hostages snatched in June released unharmed

Two German men kidnapped in Sudan's troubled Darfur region in June were released unharmed Tuesday, announced the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Tuesday. The men work for the German government's relief arm.


AFP - Two German aid workers kidnapped in June  when gunmen swooped on their offices in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region were freed on Tuesday and are in good health.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced their release in Berlin.

"Both men... will be brought to Khartoum in the course of the day. They are well, considering the difficult circumstances," he said.

The men work for Technische Hilfswerk (THW), the disaster relief arm of the German interior ministry. The foreign ministry gave no details on the circumstances surrounding their release.

"I thank the crisis centre and all authorities involved for their untiring and successful involvement. I also thank the Sudanese authorities for their support and cooperation," Westerwelle said.

"I have spoken to them. They are in good health," the head of THW in Sudan Jurgen Maresch told AFP.

The two men, aged 34 and 52, were kidnapped by unknown gunmen in Nyala, the largest city of Darfur, on June 22.

It was the first time foreigners had been kidnapped from their offices in the heart of Nyala, where more than one million people live.

"They were released this morning in Kebkabiya and were then driven to Nyala," Chris Cycmanick, spokesman for the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), told AFP.

The Kebkabiya region is one of the most sensitive parts of Darfur and is controled by Arab tribes. Several hostages in Darfur have spent their time in captivity in Kebkabiya where the government has little control.

"They have just left Nyala in a plane of the ICRC and should arrive in Khartoum around 7:00 pm (1600 GMT)," said an official of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The kidnapping of the two men marked the first time Germans had been abducted in Darfur.

Darfur has been gripped by civil war since 2003 that has left 300,000 people dead and 2.7 million displaced, according to the United Nations. Khartoum says 10,000 have been killed in the conflict.

The vast western Sudanese region has also seen a wave of kidnappings of foreign nationals since March 2009 when the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir accusing him of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Since March 2009, 17 foreigners including 10 Westerners have been seized there.

All have been released except an American aid worker with the Samaritan's Purse group who was kidnapped in May.

"In the past it was okay, but now it is not. They are threatening me, my life, my health," the woman told AFP by telephone on Monday.

"I am not safe now. I don't have clean water, the situation changed very quickly into a nightmare. There are 20 men around me now," she said.

"I want to go home, I just hope they will release me."

The woman's identity was confirmed to AFP by Samaritan's Purse, but the aid group has requested that her name not be published.

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