August 28, 2013 (KHARTOUM)- The deputy governor of Sudan’s South Darfur state, Mahdi Bosch, has announced that security forces managed to free two Ukrainian pilots and a Sudanese co-pilot who were held captives by the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Minnawi (SLA-MM) when their heliocopter made an emergency landing southeast of the state’s capital Nyala earlier this month.
- Crew members of an helicopter, two Ukrainians and a Sudanese, that were held captive since early August, sit in an hotel of the South Darfur state capital Nyala on August 28, 2013 (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
The Mi-8 transport helicopter which belongs to Al-Dindir Aviation was delivering food for the peacekeeping UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
On August 3, the helicopter was heading back from Buram locality and made an emergency landing in Abga Ragil area, 50 kilometers southeast of Nyala, due to bad weather conditions.
Three crewmen, namely two Ukrainian pilots and a Sudanese flight engineer were detained by members of the SLA-MM.
Bosch, who was speaking at a press conference in Nyala on Wednesday, said that the hostages were freed following negotiations led by state’s security forces and the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), denying that a ransom was paid to the kidnappers for their release.
Kidnappers had earlier demanded a 2 million pounds ransom to free the captives and return the chopper.
The deputy governor also said that SLA-MM is still holding the helicopter, pointing that negotiations to return it are underway.
The director of the information policy department at the Ukrainian foreign ministry, Yevgeny Perebeinos, told reporters on Wednesday that the Sudanese foreign ministry confirmed that the two Ukrainian citizens onboard the heliocopter were set free, noting that they are in satisfactory conditions in Nyala and will be brought to Khartoum soon.
Incidents of kidnapping and attacks on Darfur have become common lately despite a relative lull in fighting between rebels and government troops from the heights of 2003-2004.