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Pilot Who Tried to Fly African 'Orphans' to Europe Defends His Actions


A Belgian pilot who helped a French charity try to fly more than 100 children from Africa to Europe says he has no regrets over his actions. Authorities in Chad say it was not a mission to rescue orphans, but an attempted mass kidnapping.

The 74-year-old pilot, Jacques Wilmart, who had suffered heart problems while in custody in Chad, was released and returned home Saturday.

Before leaving Chad's capital, N'Djamena aboard a Belgian military jet, Wilmart said he was following his conscience while working with the charity Zoe's Ark, so has nothing to regret.

Six French citizens from the Zoe's Ark group are still in custody in Chad, facing charges of abduction and fraud. Chad previously released seven Spaniards from Wilmart's flight crew and three French journalists.

Members of the Zoe's Ark group say the 103 children they tried to fly to France last month were orphans from Sudan's Darfur region. However, a report by three international aid agencies says most of the children do have at least one living parent, and that many appear to be Chadian.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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