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Kidnappers release Ukrainian pilot, translator in Darfur

November 13 - 2015 ZALINGEI
The Ukrainian pilot shaking hands with West Darfur Governor Khalil Abdullah (Ashorooq TV)
The Ukrainian pilot shaking hands with West Darfur Governor Khalil Abdullah (Ashorooq TV)

The Sudanese military forced the release of an Ukrainian pilot and his Sudanese interpreter who were kidnapped last month by gunmen in Kereinik locality, West Darfur, on Thursday morning. None of the kidnappers were arrested.

West Darfur Governor Khalil Abdallah told Ashorooq TV that the state's security committee took the decision to end the kidnap by force. They “lured” the kidnappers to an area and overpowered them. Abdallah said that the Ukrainian pilot and his translator were released without the payment of a ransom, which the kidnappers had demanded.

Interesting to note is that the Governor and Sudan's official news agency (Suna) did not say whether the military managed to arrest the kidnappers, but there was no loss of lives on either side.

A local source of Radio Dabanga reported a different account of the release, claiming that a ransom was paid to the kidnappers. He and another source independently confirmed Abdallah's statement that there were no injured among the kidnappers and the military force that 'stormed' the hostage site.

“After the kidnapping in Um Tajok one month ago, the militiamen took their prisoners to Jebel Gor and Kuga, south-east of Um Tajok,” one of the sources explained. The region is controlled by a militia leader named Hassaballah. “From there they were taken to Khor Ramla, east of Zalingei [Central Darfur], where they were released on Thursday evening.”

The other source reported that the two were held in Jebel Ahmar, east of Zalingei, which is controlled by militia leader 'Ali Yagoub', until a military force released them.

Kidnapped for nearly a month

The Ukrainian pilot was working by contract with the Ministry of Agriculture, in the field of plant protection. On the day of his kidnap, 17 October, he had returned to Um Tajok from spraying farmlands with pesticides from a helicopter which was rented by the Ministry, a source who works in the relief sector in West Darfur told Radio Dabanga.

A group of militiamen riding four-wheel drive vehicles attacked a nearby office in Um Tajok, killed the guard, and then took the pilot and his Sudanese interpretor with them. Not much later they demanded a ransom of SDG2 million ($330,000) for their release, which later rose to SDG2.5 million ($406,400).

The authorities in El Geneina dispatched a military force to track the kidnappers. The search led them to El Tadamon in Saraf Umra locality, known as a stronghold of a large number of militiamen. An agreement with the kidnappers failed, brokered by a mediation team, to hand the two to the military garrison. A couple of days later an aircraft of the Sudanese Air Force joined the search on the ground.

The kidnappers took the pilot and his interpretor to the Jawu Mountains, about 20 kilometres east of Saraf Umra, last week. Military Intelligence officers reported to have detained four suspects, including three militia leaders, in Saraf Umra.

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