The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) today successfully carried out an extraction operation securing the release of 13 UNMISS contractors, who were taken hostage and detained by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in Opposition soldiers on 26th October.
According to a statement issued by the UN Mission, the released contractors were part of the 31 personnel, comprising of 18 UNMISS uniformed personnel and 13 Sudanese UNMISS contractors who had been crew on board a barge convoy transporting fuel to UNMISS' base in Renk, Upper Nile state.
A group of 18 international peacekeepers and Military Liaison Officers, who had also been a part of the barge convoy, were released earlier on 29 October, UNMISS said.
Last week, all the UN personnel were taken hostage by the SPLA in Opposition soldiers who confiscated the barge convoy, its equipment and cargo, including 55,000 liters of fuel.
The UN Mission added that the convoy equipment, a total of three vessels including the barge, have also been returned and are on their way to Melut, Upper Nile State.
Further, the statement said that the while the barge was returned today, the fuel cargo, communications equipment, an inflatable boat, and seven of the 16 UNMISS weapons taken on 26 October were not returned.
UNMISS reiterated its call to the SPLA in Opposition for the immediate release of all its equipment and cargo.
Additionally, the statement included clarifications of media reports that questioned the UN Mission's questionable involvement in the transportation of weapons.
“The barge was not transporting weapons cargo of any kind, in fact, all fuel cargo was bound for the UNMISS base in Renk, as a resupply,” said Special Representative of the Secretary General, Ellen Loej strongly refuting the accusations.
“While we, today, are relieved by the safe release of all UN personnel, the need for all parties to the conflict in South Sudan to fully respect unfettered free access and movement of UN personnel and assets cannot be underlined strongly enough,” she added, expressing hope that such an incident should not happen again.