Sudan charity workers killed

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FOUR MEN working for the Red Cross have been executed after being held captive for six weeks by the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva said it had been told that a Sudanese Red Crescent worker and three government officials who had accompanied a food relief team in southern Sudan had been killed while in detention.

The team, as well as two ICRC expatriates, were captured on 18 February near the town of Bentiu after they strayed into territory held by the liberation army. On 12 March the two expatriates were released.

The ICRC said in a press statement that for more than one month it had urged the army to release the men, and made a personal appeal to the movement's chairman, John Garang, when he visited Geneva on 22 March.

Unofficial estimates put the number of dead in the southern Sudanese war at about a million people.

Dr Garang, who is supported by, among others, the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, claims he is fighting for the mainly Christian south to become a secular state, free from the dictates of the capital, Khartoum.

A nine-month ceasefire negotiated through the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) - including Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda - is due to expire on 15 April, after which talks will resume in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Fighting tends to be seasonal and affected by food supply. That factor and claims of allegiances between aid agencies and factions in the war have resulted in claims that Western charities delivering food are fuelling the fighting.