Home | News    Thursday 20 November 2003

Rebel faction admits abducting relief workers in Sudan

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KHARTOUM, Nov 20 (AFP) — A small rebel faction said its fighters abducted five Sudanese relief workers while they were distributing food aid in western Sudan and would release them in neighboring Chad, a newspaper reported.

Al Sahafa said the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which is fighting to end the Darfur region’s economic neglect by Khartoum, said it was holding the five and would hand them over in any place inside Chad named by the government.

The newspaper, which was citing information it obtained in a telephone call to the Social Welfare Minister in West Darfur State, listed no conditions for their release or stated the reasons for the abductions.

The Swiss humanitarian group Medair said Tuesday that four of its Sudanese workers and a government official did not return from a mission near the town of Kolbus on November 11, and that contacts were underway for their release.

Humanitarian Aid Commissioner (HAC) Sulaf Eddin Salih told Wednesday’s Al Rai Al Aam daily that Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) rebels had abducted the five relief workers on November 13 in the Kulbus area.

One of the five Sudanese workers belonged to the HAC’s department and the other four to Medair, Salih was quoted as telling the independent daily.

Unlike the SLM, the JEM has not signed a ceasefire agreement with the Sudanese government. Both share the same aims of ending the region’s marginalization.

Since February, Darfur, in western Sudan along the border with Chad, has been the scene of clashes between the SLM and government forces backed by local militias.

At least 3,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced by the fighting in the area, where Medair provides supplies and medical help to up to 45,000 people.

The United Nations last week complained that aid for Darfur was being choked off by government red tape and security precautions, hampering its response to a growing humanitarian crisis there.

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