Home | News    Tuesday 22 July 2003

Minister feared kidnapped in Sudan rebel region

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KHARTOUM, July 22 (Reuters) - A Sudanese minister and a state governor have disappeared in the Darfur region of western Sudan where rebels have been fighting government forces, a Sudanese official was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

Two western diplomats in Khartoum told Reuters the government had told them the pair had been kidnapped by rebels who were demanding a ransom for their release.

The independent al-Ayam newspaper quoted Osman Mohamed Yousef Kibr, governor of Northern Darfur state, as saying he had lost contact with Education Minister Ahmed Babiker Nahar and Abdalla Ali Macar, the governor of Nile River state, three weeks ago.

"We have not had any communication with them since they left the town of al-Fashir on the first of the month," Kibr said. Al-Fashir is the capital of Northern Darfur state and is about 800 km (500 miles) southwest of Khartoum.

The western diplomats said the government had told them the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) in Darfur had kidnapped the officials.

The diplomats said the pair had gone to negotiate with the rebels, but it was not clear whether they had government backing for the mission. Khartoum has previously said it would not negotiate with the rebels. Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Kibr said the SLM/A, which has been fighting the government since February, had not yet released a Sudanese general kidnapped in Darfur in April.

The SLM/A is not known to be linked to the similarly named southern rebel group the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, currently involved in peace talks with the government to end a 20-year civil war in the south.

The western rebels accuse Khartoum of excluding Darfur, one of Sudan’s most arid regions, from development and state power.

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