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Sudan: UN seeks release of staff members taken hostage in Darfur

29 October 2009 – The top African Union-United Nations peacekeeping official in Sudan met with leading Government ministers this week to urge them to step up efforts for the safe release of abducted UN and other humanitarian workers in the strife-torn Darfur region, calling it a “hostage crisis.”

Henry Anyidoho, Acting Joint Special Representative of the AU–UN Mission in Darfur, know as (UNAMID), discussed the release and steps to pre-empt recurrences with Sudanese Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Al Saman Al Wasila while on his way to Abuja, Nigeria, to attend the AU Peace and Security Council meeting on Darfur.

Two UNAMID civilian staff members were abducted from their home in the West Darfur town of Zalingei at the end of August and have yet to be released.

Last week, a staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), French-British national Gauthier Lefevre, was snatched by gunmen while retuning to El Geneina, capital of West Darfur state, from a field mission to help local communities obtain clean drinking water.

A week before that, an armed rebel group in North Darfur state released two staffers of the international non-governmental organization (NGO) GOAL after they had spent three months in captivity.

Mr. Anyidoho discussed the current security situation and strategies to reduce banditry and criminality in Darfur with the two ministers, thanked them for their cooperation with UNAMID and sought continued and enhanced cooperation in executing the mission’s mandate.

Both ministers assured him of the Government’s full commitment to upcoming talks with Darfur rebel movements aimed at bringing peace to a region where at least 300,000 people are estimated to have died and another 2.7 million more have been driven from their homes in over six years of fighting between the Government, its militia allies and various armed groups.

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