Aid workers released a day after Darfur rebels detain them, UN in Sudan says

23 February 2005

Seven Sudanese aid workers operating in the war-torn Darfur region have been released after rebels detained them for 24 hours earlier this week, the United Nations Advance Mission to the country (UNAMIS) said today as it reported continuing insecurity in the region.

The seven workers, all Sudanese nationals, for Catholic Relief Services and their vehicles were detained in West Darfur state by members of the rebel National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD) after they distributed food there on Monday.

UNAMIS reported that the workers were released yesterday with the help of the African Union (AU), but the NMRD still had the vehicles.

The incident follows the 24-hour detention of four aid workers in North Darfur state on the weekend by members of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA). Those four workers were released on Sunday.

Most estimates suggest at least 70,000 people have been killed since the conflict in Darfur, a vast and impoverished region on Sudan's western flank, began in early 2003. About 1.65 million people are internally displaced and another 200,000 others live as refugees in neighbouring Chad.

Meanwhile, the mission also reported that the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, held constructive meetings yesterday in Rumbek with John Garang, chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), about setting up a UN peace-support mission in southern Sudan following the end of the civil war in that region.

Mr. Pronk has headed to Germany to hold talks with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and other senior officials.


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