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Sudanese government gives green light for POWs repatriation

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May 1, 2015 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese government gave the green light to transport 20 prisoners of war (POWs) the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement -North (SPLM-N) decided to release since several months.

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Sa’ihoon and SPLM-N leaders pose together in an undated picture

Following a series of meetings with former Islamist combatants by the end of last year, SPLM-N leadership decided to release 20 POWs as a gesture of goodwill to the Sa’ihoon group.

Since, Sudanese officials welcomed the rebels’ decision to release the POWs but no concrete step was taken to ensure the access of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the rebel held areas in order to repatriate the released soldiers to their families.

A source close to the file told Sudan Tribune on Friday that the government has agreed to the authorise a ICRC plane to transfer the 20 soldiers from the rebel areas to the Ethiopian capital Addis Abba before their return to Khartoum.

He further said that the Sudanese presidential aide, Ibrahim Ghandour, and some military officials discussed last Wednesday with the Sa’ihoun leadership the different options for the ICRC fight itinerary.

In a statement issued after Wednesday meeting, Sa’ihoon said that "Ghandour reiterated his commitment to take all the necessary steps to ensure the POWs return to their families, and praised the good endeavours of the group in this respect".

Khartoum did not yet officially confirm its agreement.

But the sources who preferred anonymity at this stage of operation added that the government and the rebel group are now considering the fight itinerary and expected an agreement over this technical matter very soon.

Previously, the SPLM-N said ten POWs would be released from the rebel areas in the Blue Nile state and ten others from the South Kordofan state.

Following the failure of peace talks last December, the Two Areas witnessed an escalation of hostilities between the warring parties, as the government launched its Decisive Summer campaign and the rebel intensified their attacks to hamper the electoral process in April.

In a meeting aiming to finalise this humanitarian operation held in Addis Ababa on 10 April 2015, the SPLM-N handed over the names of the 20 POWs besides a list of 22 governmental mining staff caught behind the rebel lines in the Jam chrome mining areas in the Blue Nile state .

It is not clear, however, if the mining workers will be included in this repatriation operation or not.

(ST)

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