Two kidnapped Darfur aid workers freed

Two kidnapped aid workers from the Irish agency Goal were released on Sunday in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region after more than 100 days in captivity, a government official said.

“They were released earlier this morning,” Sudan’s state minister for humanitarian affairs, Abdel Baqi al-Jailani, told Reuters.

Sharon Commins, from Dublin, and Hilda Kawuki, from Uganda, were seized in their north Darfur compound by armed men in July.

Micheal Martin, Ireland’s foreign minister, praised the women for their “courage and resilience” and thanked the Sudanese government for its role in their release.

Darfur has seen a wave of kidnappings in the past year, and aid workers working in the hostile region have had to step up security.

A counter-insurgency campaign against rebels who took up arms in 2003 drove more than two million people from their homes and created a humanitarian crisis which the United Nations says has claimed 300 000 lives.

Sudanese officials had been negotiating with the kidnappers through tribal elders. The government said no ransom had been paid and the two women were on their way to North Darfur’s capital el-Fasher.

John O’Shea, chief executive officer of Goal, said he had spoken with Commins and she sounded “wonderful”.

“Hilda and herself have suffered a traumatic ordeal—but happily both have had the strength and courage to come through it,” he said in a statement.

“A sense of overwhelming relief and joy has descended upon all of us.”

The senior UN humanitarian official in Sudan, Ameerah Haq, welcomed their release.

“The kidnapping ... is a reminder of the dangers faced by humanitarians working to help the people of Sudan, often in circumstances of considerable personal risk,” she said in a statement.

Aid groups say they have faced increased hostility and threats since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in March for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to face charges that he masterminded war crimes in Darfur.
- Reuters

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