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Two abducted UN peacekeepers freed in Darfur

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(KHARTOUM) - Two Jordanian peacekeepers working for the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) have been freed, after nearly four and half months in captivity, the mission’s spokesperson said Wednesday.

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A picture released by the UNAMID shows the two Jordanian peacekeepers after their arrival to Al-Fasher on 2 January 2013

Hasan Al-Mazawdeh and Qasim Al-Sarhan, the mission said, were abducted in August last year by an armed group while on patrol in Kebkabiya town, about 140 kilometres west of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.

The UN had prior to the incident, reportedly warned of rising insecurity in the troubled region.

“The two Jordanian officers working for UNAMID in North Darfur State have been released after being kidnapped by an armed group in the region, since August last year,” Aicha Elbasri, the UNAMID spokesperson said in a statement.

“They were medically checked and they appear to be unharmed and in good health,” she added.

They two officers will be flown to Khartoum and back to their home country as soon as possible, the mission said in a statement.

Their release, sources say, followed sustained efforts by the mission, the Sudanese authorities and the Jordanian government.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General has commended the efforts of UNAMID, the Government of Sudan and the Government of Jordan in securing the release of the abductees.

The UN chief, in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, underscored the importance of the peacekeeping and humanitarian work in Darfur, calling on the Sudanese government to fully investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.

He however emphasized that the primary responsibility for the safety and security of all peacekeeping personnel in UNAMID and the humanitarian community lies with the host government.

Aichatou Mindaoudou, the UNAMID Acting Joint Special Representative on Wednesday expressed the mission’s thanks to the Government of Sudan, the Governor of North Darfur, and the Government of Jordan for their valuable assistance in the safe release of the peacekeepers.

Jordan’s police directorate on Wednesday also welcomed the release the two peacekeepers.

“Police corporals Hassan Mazawdeh and Qasem Sarhan are now at the Jordanian mission, enjoying good health,” a statement from the Jordanian Kingdom’s Public Security Directorate partly reads.

"We thank the Sudanese government and the United Nations for their help, support and coordination," it adds.

Jordanian authorities, according to the statement, are in contact with the Sudanese government as well as the UN to ensure the immediate and safe return of the two officers.

WAVE OF KIDNAPPINGS

In May last year, unknown people freed a Briton working for the UN World Food Program (WFP) in Darfur, after nearly three months in captivity.

Earlier on in February, rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) reportedly freed five Turks they had held captive for several months.

(ST)

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