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Kidnapped relief workers released in North Darfur

October 19 - 2009 KHARTOUM

Two aid workers of the Irish NGO Goal have been released by their kidnappers after 107 days of captivity in North Darfur. Sunday (yesterday), the Irish Sharon Commins and the Ugandan female, Hilda Kawuki were freed by the kidnappers. The government of Sudan and Goal denied that they had paid a ransom, as happened in the past with other cases. The government of Sudan refuses to explain under what conditions the kidnappers were willing to release the women. The kidnappers are related to a pro government militia that has been involved in attacks against rebel groups in the area.

The two aid-workers were working with the Irish Goal organization, where they were kidnapped from the organization headquarters in Kutum last July. John O’Shea, John O’Shea, chief executive officer of Goal, told Radio Dabanga how happy and thankful he is for the release. He said he had spoken with Commins who was obviously happy with their release. “Hilda and herself have suffered, but both have had the strength and courage” he said. “A sense of overwhelming relief and joy has descended upon all of us.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, who travelled to Sudan last month as negotiations to secure the women’s release continued, said in the Irish Times that he was “personally delighted and extremely relieved” at the news. “I want to pay a personal tribute to the two women who have undergone such a difficult ordeal. Their personal courage and resilience has helped them through what must have been a traumatic experience,” Martin said. He also paid tribute to the efforts of the Sudanese government in securing the women’s safe return to their families, adding that the Irish Government was particularly indebted to Sudan’s minister for humanitarian affairs Abdul Bagi al-Jailani.

A second kidnapping of two UNAMID workers is still ongoing. This group is keeping their hostages in Jebel Konjyo, between four to ten kilometres northwest of Zalingei.

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