Three foreign aid workers, including an Italian doctor, kidnapped in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur have been released. They were freed along with a Sudanese national after being abducted at gunpoint on Wednesday.
Gunmen held the foreign aid workers for three days. They were abducted after an international arrest warrant was issued for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of war crimes in Darfur.
Before moving on to the Sudanese capital Khartoum, the foreign aid workers were taken by military helicopter to El Fasher airport in North Darfur where the local governor, Osman Kebir said they were released without conditions or ransom.
The Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini also declared that no money was exchanged to obtain their release.
The three freed hostages were Canadian nurse Laura Archer, Italian doctor Mauro D'Ascanio and French administrator Raphael Meunier. They worked with the Belgian branch of Doctors Without Borders, or MSF.
The Italian doctor's first words were to thank all those who helped achieve their release. "Thank you very much to all the people who made efforts to have us released in time and, yes, thank you very much to all those people who helped us," he said.
In Italy, Mauro D'Ascanio's brother expressed his joy at the release. "We are very happy, he said, that Mauro and his three colleagues have been released. We cannot wait to embrace him," he said.
All three of the aid workers were kidnapped Wednesday evening when armed men stormed their compound at Saraf Umra, an area under government control about 230 kilometers west of El Fasher.
Their kidnapping prompted MSF to evacuate almost all international staff from its Darfur projects. The aid group said the future of those projects remain uncertain because of the security situation in the area.
Sudan's president Bashir is accused of orchestrating atrocities against civilians in Darfur, where his Arab-led government has been battling ethnic African rebels since 2003.