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UN Peacekeepers Freed in Darfur

Jordanian and Sudanese officials say two Jordanians abducted last week-end in Sudan's Darfur region have been released.

Sudanese officials said Tuesday the two men, who are with the U.N.-African Union mission in Darfur, were freed after negotiations involving the government and tribal leaders.

Jordan's Information Minister Ali Al-Ayed said the men First Lieutenants Nabil Kilani and Ahmad Qaisi are in good condition at the Jordanian mission in Darfur.

A UNAMID patrol in Darfur

A UNAMID patrol in Darfur

Ayed said the two are among only four security personnel Jordan has working for the joint U.N.-African Union mission, known as UNAMID. The two men were taken last week-end in the South Darfur state capital, Nyala.

According to UNAMID spokesman Christopher Cycmanick, “We do know there were three individuals in a vehicle that pulled up in front of them, and took them at gun point on Saturday morning as they were going to a dispatch pick up point where they were going to go to work.

“They were snatched, brought to (a mountainous area called) Kalma. We don’t know if they’ve been there for the past few days or not, but that’s where they were freed from.”

Cymanick said the men are on their way to Khartoum, where they will take a Jordanian military flight back home.

He said he’s not aware of any ransom.

“As far as I know there was nothing paid,” said the UNAMID spokesman. “ I do [when] the governmental forces arrived in the area where the people were being held, the perpetrators fled the scene [and the men were freed].”

“There was a great amount of cooperation with the government,” continued Cymanick. “ I suspect there were several leads the government had.

“When we’ve had abductions before, the government has been helpful, usually pointing out the individuals they suspected were involved, and they’ve been very instrumental on several occasions in securing the release of peacekeepers who have been abducted.

UN Peacekeepers Freed in Darfur

UN Peacekeepers Freed in Darfur

The kidnapping was the latest in a series of attacks on UNAMID forces in recent weeks. Last month, an ambush wounded seven peacekeepers, and another ambush in June killed three and wounded a fourth.

Peacekeepers and foreign aid workers have faced increased hostility in Darfur since March 2009, when the International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in the region.

Cycmanick said peacekeepers and NGO employees have to be on alert at all times. “You have to be smart about the way you go about doing things,” he says. “But again, it shows anything can happen. You can have two people on foot in police uniforms walking at 8 am, as was the case with the Jordanian peacekeepers, and they still get snatched.“

The abductions come at a time of tension between Khartoum and relief agencies at the Kalma camp near Nyala. The government has prevented aid workers from regularly accessing the site. In July, eight people in the camp died as fighting erupted between supporters of rebel factions participating in the peace process and those of the Sudan Liberation Army.