Horn of Africa. Djibouti Eritrea Ethiopia Somalia Sudan. Darfur. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQwCCm-H-sU. Genocide. gen·o·cide n. The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group. Kidnapped aid workers freed in Darfur.
gen·o·cide n. The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group.
By Andrew Heavens
Three foreign aid workers kidnapped in Sudan's Darfur region were freed on Saturday by captors who an official said were protesting over an international arrest warrant against the country's president.
The aid workers from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were seized from their base on Wednesday after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of orchestrating war crimes in Darfur.
MSF Belgium's general director Christopher Stokes told a news conference in Brussels MSF had paid no ransom. He said the group was reconsidering its operations at the scene of one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
"We are as a movement...not able today to determine the level at which we are able to maintain our assistance in Darfur. This includes all projects in Darfur," he added.
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The three were welcomed back in Khartoum by MSF staff late on Saturday. A Sudanese guard held along with them stayed behind in the regional centre of El Fasher.
North Darfur governor Osman Yusuf Kibir, who accompanied the freed aid workers to Khartoum, said kidnappers calling themselves the Eagles of Bashir had freed them at an agreed site in north Darfur.
He told reporters negotiations had begun on Thursday on a telephone number the pro-government kidnappers had left behind.
"They said they kidnapped the foreigners for the sake of the nation and they released them for the sake of the nation. It was an expression of their rejection of the unjust measure against the nation's sovereignty and the symbol of the nation," said Kibir, referring to the arrest warrant against Bashir.
"We told them if you want to serve the interest of the nation you should release them. Thank god they did, without any ransom. I repeat there was no ransom, and they made no other demands," he said.
One of the male hostages appeared on state television, which did not name him.
"I just will like to say to everybody we are safe, we are here, we are in good health and we will maybe be more talkative a bit later on," he said.
The seizure of the three foreign staff along with a Sudanese national sent shockwaves through the region's humanitarian community.
MSF identified the kidnapped workers as Canadian nurse Laura Archer, Italian doctor Mauro D'Ascanio, French coordinator Raphael Meunier and Sudanese guard Sharif Mohamadin. A second Sudanese staff member who was originally kidnapped with the group in the north Darfur town of Saraf Omra was released soon after the abduction.
Sudan expelled 13 international aid groups from the north of the country after the ICC warrant was issued, accusing them of passing information to the court, an accusation the groups deny. MSF's Dutch and French arms were ordered to leave but its Belgian operation was not expelled.
Aid groups have said they have faced growing antagonism in Darfur since the arrest warrant was issued.
After the abductions, MSF said it was suspending all its remaining operations in Darfur and was pulling around 30 foreign staff back to Khartoum for security reasons.
U.N. officials have warned that the expulsions and the closure of three Sudanese aid groups after the ICC warrant could have a devastating impact on hundreds of thousands of people in strife-hit regions across north Sudan.
Before the expulsions, the United Nations and aid groups were running the world's largest humanitarian operation in Darfur where, international experts say almost six years of fighting has uprooted 2.7 million people.
"NO INFORMATION TODAY. NO COMMENT," A SOMALI PIRATE SHOUTS OVER THE SOUND OF BREAKING WAVES, BEFORE ABRUPTLY ENDING THE SATELLITE TELEPHONE CALL.