2 German aid workers set free 5 weeks after being kidnapped in Sudan’s Darfur region

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2 German aid workers abducted in Sudan set free

BERLIN — Two German aid workers kidnapped five weeks ago in Sudan’s Darfur region were released without force on Tuesday and are now safe and in good health, officials said.

The two German men were freed with the help of Sudanese security forces “peacefully and without any preconditions,” the governor of South Darfur State, Abdul Hameed Musa Kasha, told the official Sudan news agency.

But many questions remained, including which group seized the men and why.

The two had been working in Darfur’s south for Technisches Hilfswerk, or THW, a German state agency that does development work, when gunmen raided the agency’s office June 22 and abducted them.

Ibrahim Gambari, the joint special representative of the United Nations and the African Union in Darfur, said the two were picked up by helicopter in Kabkabiya, a town in North Darfur, before noon on Tuesday.

The two men were in the care of Sudanese authorities and were being taken to the country’s capital, Khartoum, Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

He said the men, who are ages 34 and 52, had spoken with both the Red Cross and the German ambassador by phone.

“I’m very happy and relieved over the release of the two THW staffers,” said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, whose department oversees the agency.

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 mostly have demanded ransom, but some have made political statements.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since ethnic African rebels rose up in 2003, accusing Sudan’s Arab-dominated central government of neglect and discrimination.

Violence had largely subsided in Darfur over the last year, but a recent spike followed the April elections.


Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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