UN peacekeepers in Darfur say gunmen abducted 2 foreign aid workers, at leaset 1 is German

By Sarah El Deeb, AP
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2 foreign aid workers abducted in Darfur

CAIRO — Gunmen raided the office of a German aid group in south Darfur and abducted two foreign workers, a spokesman for the international peacekeeping mission said Wednesday.

The German Foreign Ministry said two Germans working for the Technisches Hilfswerk, a state agency doing development work, have been missing in Darfur since late Tuesday. The men are 34 and 52, foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke told reporters in Berlin.

The identity of the kidnappers is unknown, and there has been no contact with the kidnapped, said Chris Cycmanick, spokesman for the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

Kidnappings of foreign aid workers have been on the rise in Darfur since 2009, following an international arrest warrant against Sudan’s president for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

Kidnappers have mostly demanded ransom, but in some incidents they also were seeking to make political statements. One group of kidnappers said it was retaliating for the arrest warrant against Sudan’s president.

Cycmanick said seven gunmen, including four carrying automatic rifles, entered the residence of Technisches Hilfswerk group in Nyala, the capital of south Darfur, late Tuesday.

There was no report of gunfire.

One of the kidnapped was on an international call during the abduction, while a dog was barking as the captors tried to come in, Cycmanick said, according to a mission security briefing.

One of the kidnapped was identified as a German national, but the identity of the second is still not clear, Cycmanick said. The kidnappers drove up north of Nyala, and a Sudanese security guard who was briefly abducted was being questioned by the Sudanese authorities.

Four UNAMID peacekeepers were abducted in April just outside of Nyala for 16 days, during Sudan’s first nationwide multiparty elections.

The kidnappers, members of a small rebel group, said they abducted the peacekeepers to prove that the security condition in Darfur was not ripe for holding the elections, which were widely criticized by Sudanese opposition including Darfur rebel groups.

U.N. officials say at least 300,000 people have lost their lives from violence, disease and displacement, and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes.

Violence has largely subsided in Darfur over the last year, but a recent spike followed the April elections. Five peacekeepers were killed since May in attacks by gunmen, while clashes between government forces and rebels were reported.

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