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Sudan: Kinapped American Aid Worker Freed

Monday, 30 Aug 2010 06:49 AM


KHARTOUM — A female American aid worker abducted by gunmen in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur more than 100 days ago was freed on Monday, Sudan's foreign ministry said.

The woman, who works for US aid group Samaritan's Purse, was kidnapped in mid-May in the village of Abu Ajura, South Darfur, along with two Sudanese colleagues who were later released.

"She was freed a short while ago and is now at the home of the governor of South Darfur, in Nyala," ministry spokesman Moawiya Osman told AFP.

The release of the woman, whose name was not immediately released, was the fruit of "negotiations with the abductors," Osman said.

"No ransom has been paid," he added. Her abductors had asked for a large sum of money in exchange for her release.

According to Osman, authorities had struck "a deal with the Americans that no security operation should be undertaken to free the woman in order to protect her life."

News of the woman's release came a day after at least two Russian helicopter crew members were abducted by gunmen in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state.

Sudan's army spokesman, Sawarmi Khaled Saad told AFP on Monday that two Russian pilots were seized on Sunday while Russia's Interfax news agency said that in fact three Russians -- the captain of a Mi-8 helicopter and two crew members -- were abducted.

Strife-torn Darfur has seen a wave of kidnappings since March 2009, when the International Criminal Court indicted Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes there, with 21 foreigners seized, including the two Russians.

With the release of the American aid worker, only the newly-seized Russians remain in captivity.

In July, the woman, reached by telephone, told AFP that her situation had turned into a "nightmare."

"In the past it was okay, but now it is not. They are threatening me, my life, my health," said the woman.

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The woman's identity was confirmed to AFP by Samaritan's Purse, but the aid group had requested that her name not be published.

It is the first time a Western woman has been held alone in Darfur.

In July one of the kidnappers told AFP that negotiations for her release against payment of a ransom had not succeeded.

"We have had talks with the Sudanese government, but nothing was reached. We have been holding her for nearly three months now," one of the abductors, identifying himself as Abu Mohammed al-Rizegui, said via satellite phone.

That name has been used several times by armed groups committing abductions in Darfur, notably in the kidnappings of two aid workers for French group Aide Medicale Internationale (AMI) in April 2009, and two employees of the French Triangle GH in the Central African Republic in October 2009.

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.

Samaritan's Purse, which works on projects to improve access to drinking water for small farmers in Darfur, is headed by influential US evangelist Franklin Graham. It has been in Darfur since 2004.

There was no immediate confirmation from the US organisation of the woman's release but a statement posted on its website last week urged people to pray for her saying that Wednesday August 25 marked her 100th day in captivity.

"Please continue to pray for the release of our worker, for safety and for God's peace," said the message.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved


© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 
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