/ 26 April 2010

South African peacekeepers held in Darfur freed

Four South African peacekeepers with the joint UN-African Union mission who had been held in Darfur since April 11 were freed on Monday, their captors said.

“We released them half an hour ago,” said Ibrahim al-Dukki, of the People’s Democratic Struggle Movement.

“We dropped them off in the Niertiti area,” in west Darfur, Dukki said, adding that no ransom had been paid.

“They are in good health,” he said.

The four UNAMID police — two men and two women — were abducted on April 11 as they left their team site just outside Nyala, UNAMID said.

The alarm was raised a day later when a colleague living in the same residence alerted the mission about their absence.

Last week Dukki said his group wanted $400 000 for the hostages’ release, but said the main reason for their kidnapping was “to show the international community that security conditions in Darfur do not allow for elections”.

The kidnapping came as Sudan was holding its first competitive elections in more than two decades.

Election observers from the European Union had pulled out of war-torn Darfur, citing insecurity.

Darfur has been gripped by civil war since 2003. In the past year, the region has seen a wave of kidnappings of humanitarian workers and expatriates in general.

Since it was first deployed in January 2008, UNAMID has also suffered a number of deadly attacks. – AFP