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UN: Abducted Peacekeepers Freed in S. Sudan

Unity and Upper Nile states, South Sudan
Unity and Upper Nile states, South Sudan

Twenty United Nations peacekeepers, detained by rebels in South Sudan, have been released, according to a U.N. official, but 12 contractors with the U.N. mission in South Sudan are still being held.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the peacekeepers were detained on Monday while escorting a U.N. barge carrying fuel on the Nile river.

The barge was travelling north of the city of Malakal when it was blocked by over 100 heavily armed men affiliated with the rebel SPLA-In Opposition who detained the peacekeepers, the crew and the barge, and stole its fuel.

Dujarric said all 20 of the detained peacekeepers were evacuated from the town of Kaka to Malakal Thursday by helicopter, but that rebels are still holding 12 U.N. mission contractors.

"The mission is extremely concerned that the national crew of the barge have not been released, the barge has not been returned to the United Nations, and neither has its equipment," the spokesman said.

He called on rebel leader Riek Machar to uphold his commitment to the United Nations and release the contractors "unharmed and unhurt."