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Sudan says military rescue operation freed Jordanian peacekeepers in Darfur

August 17, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – Two abducted Jordanian police advisers serving with the UN-AU Hybrid Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) have been released “unharmed”, the mission announced in a press statement issued yesterday.

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UNAMID Deputy Joint Special Representative Mohamed B. Yonis (right) welcomes two UNAMID peacekeepers from Jordan, who were released today following four days in captivity. (Photo by UNAMID - Olivier Chassot)

The two officers, Ahmed Qeisi and Nabil Kilani, were seized by unknown gunmen on Saturday, August 13, as they were walking from their accommodation to a transport pickup point in Nyala town, the capital of south Darfur State.

UNAMID’s press release said that the two peacekeepers had been released "unharmed" in Kas town, southern Darfur and immediately transported to a UN-run hospital in Nyala where they underwent medical examination.

In the wake of the abduction, Jordanian media sources reported that the abductors had demanded ransom. But the Sudanese army claims it has rescued the men after storming the whereabouts of the abductors.

Captain Khalid al-Sawarmi, the spokesman for the Sudanese Armed Forces, told AFP that the army had launched an operation and rescued the two officers after their abductors fled the scene.

"We dispatched a unit that stormed the area and they fled at our approach, leaving them (the Jordanians) behind," Al-Sawarmi said, adding that "they were bound and handcuffed". Al-Sawarmi said that the army continues to sweep the area for the kidnappers.

Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs and communications, Ali Al’ayad, yesterday welcomed the release and said it was the result of "a culmination of intensive efforts with the Sudanese government, the UN, and the African Union". The minister announced that Jordan’s king, Abdallah II, had issued orders to airlift the two men and bring them home.

UN’s chief Ban Ki-Moon yesterday expressed concern over high incidence of kidnappings of UNAMID peacekeepers and aid workers in Darfur. There is currently one American aid worker in captivity in Darfur.

Separately, UNAMID and local authorities yesterday announced they had started constructing a trench around Nyala town in an effort to reduce kidnappings and carjacking incidents in the town. The trench, which measures 2 meters deep and 2 meters wide, will span the town’s perimeter.

Abdel-Hamid Mousa Kasha, governor of South Darfur State, renewed today his call to the hybrid mission to coordinate with the Sudanese authorities in order to provide the necessary protection to its members.

"UNAMID must coordinate with us and inform us with movements of its personnel so that we can provide them with protection," he said in statement to the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Darfur conflict erupted in 2003 after rebel belonging mostly to African ethnicities took up arms against the Arab-led central government in Khartoum, accusing it of marginalizing the region in terms of development and wealth-sharing.

A massive counterinsurgency launched in response by Khartoum has left 300.000 people dead and more than 2 millions living under miserable conditions in displacement camps, according to UN estimates. Khartoum accuses the West of exaggerating the numbers, putting the death toll at 10.000.

(ST)