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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Darfur - 3 UN Helipcopter Crews Kidnaped

KHARTOUM — Three Bulgarian helicopter aircrew working on a UN contract were kidnapped in Sudan's troubled Darfur region on Thursday, the United Nations and the Bulgarian foreign ministry said.

The trio, seized by unidentified gunmen, were reportedly well.

"A crew of three Bulgarian nationals, working for a Bulgarian airline company operating flights on a UN contract, were kidnapped in north Sudan," the foreign ministry said in Sofia.
UNAMID, the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur, said the three were working on a World Food Programme (WFP) mission when seized at Um-Shalaya southeast of El-Geneina in West Darfur.

"The incident occurred as the crew landed their helicopter at approximately 10:35 hrs and were subsequently met by unknown armed men," said a statement from UNAMID. It said no other details were immediately available.

The three work for the UN Humanitarian Air Service, which is managed by the WFP.
Bulgarian foreign ministry spokeswoman Vesela Cherneva told national radio: "We have confirmed their identities but cannot disclose any details at this stage."

The executive director of Bulgarian company Heli Air Sau confirmed to Focus news agency that their helicopter and its three Bulgarian aircrew had been kidnapped.

"It is our helicopter and crew," he was cited as saying. "We have information that our employees are well... The information is indirect but at least we have it."

Amor Almagro, WFP spokesperson in Sudan, said the three "were abducted this morning at 10:30 by armed men in the landing field of Um-Shalaya, 60 kilometres (36 miles) southeast of El-Geneina, in West Darfur."

"We don't know who they are," Almagro added, referring to the kidnappers.
Since 2003, Darfur been gripped by a civil war that has killed 300,000 people and displaced another 2.7 million, according to UN figures. Khartoum says 10,000 people have died in the conflict.

A wave of kidnappings for ransom has plagued Darfur since March 2009, when the International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in the region.

Thirty people, including 26 foreigners, had already been kidnapped there since the indictment, with all the hostages released unharmed a few days later.

Just last week Istvan Papp, 56, a Hungarian civilian working for UNAMID in Darfur, was released.

He had been abducted by gunmen along with two colleagues from a compound in El-Fasher in October, and had been the last remaining hostage in the war-torn region.

Meanwhile, retired US general Scott Gration, Washington's special envoy for Sudan, on Thursday wound up a two-day visit to Darfur, a UNAMID statement said.

Accompanied by US senior adviser on Darfur Dane Smith, Gration met the leadership of the peacekeeping force to be briefed on the latest developments in the peace process, as well the current security situation in Darfur

The Rest @ AFP

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