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Kidnappers Free Irish, Ugandan Aid Workers in Darfur

By Maram Mazen
18 October 2009

Two international aid workers have been released unharmed after spending over 100 days in captivity in Sudan's western region of Darfur.

Sudanese officials say Irish national Sharon Commins and her Ugandan colleague Hilda Kawuki were released following three months of negotiations between the government and their kidnappers.

Gunmen abducted the women on July 3rd in the state of North Darfur, where they had been working as aid workers for the Irish non-governmental organization, GOAL. Their captors, who were not linked to any armed rebel groups, demanded ransom. The government refused the ransom demand, and instead negotiated with the captors through local and traditional leaders in Darfur.

The freed aid workers were handed over to a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the northern town of Kutum, where they had been held captive.

Sudan's State Minister for Humanitarian affairs, Abdel Baqi Al Jailani, says both women appear to be in good health.

The minister says their health condition is very good. They had a preliminary examination in Kutum hospital, and now they were taken to El Fasher hospital before being brought to Khartoum.

Kidnappings in the Darfur region have been on the rise this year. Aid organizations have long expressed concern that insecurity was making it increasingly difficult for international aid agencies to operate in Darfur, which is home to the world's biggest humanitarian mission.

Two civilian workers from the joint United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, kidnapped in Zalingi in West Darfur, remain in captivity.

Rebel groups in Darfur took up arms against the government in 2003, accusing Khartoum of marginalizing the region politically and economically. The United Nations says around 300,000 people have been killed and millions displaced by the conflict. The Sudanese government puts the death toll at around 10,000.

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