Two aid workers abducted in Darfur

Andrew Heavens

Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM - Sudan said yesterday it was trying to free two foreign aid workers kidnapped in the second abduction of international relief staff in its Darfur region in less than a month.

Unknown armed men took the French and Canadian workers for France's Aide Medicale Internationale from their compound in the south Darfur settlement of Ed el Fursan late on Saturday.

Government officials said the workers were both women.

The kidnappings were another blow to the humanitarian effort in Sudan's violent west, already hit by a spike in bandit attacks on staff, the abduction of four workers for Doctors Without Frontiers in March and a government decision to close down 16 aid agencies.

"The government is making every effort it can to free them," said a foreign ministry official.

Sudan's humanitarian aid commission, which coordinates the work of aid groups in Sudan, declined to comment on the kidnapping, as did UN officials in the country.

Kidnappings of foreign aid workers were almost unheard of in Darfur before a group calling itself the Eagles of Bashir seized four employees of the Belgian arm of Doctors Without Borders in north Darfur last month. The MSF workers were released unharmed three days later.

Aid agencies have said staff have faced growing antagonism in Darfur since President Omar Bashir expelled 13 foreign aid groups, and shut three local organisations, accusing them of passing information to the International Criminal Court. - Reuters