Two kidnapped Darfur aid workers freed

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The Independent Online

Two kidnapped aid workers from the Irish agency Goal were released today in Sudan's troubled Darfur region after more than 100 days in captivity, a government official said.

"They were released earlier this morning," Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs, Abdel Baqi al-Jailani, told Reuters.

Sharon Commins, from Dublin, and Hilda Kawuki, from Uganda, were seized in their north Darfur compound by a group of armed men in July.

Darfur has seen a wave of kidnappings in the past year, and aid workers working in the hostile region have had to step up security. Mostly Darfur rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglect.

A brutal counter-insurgency campaign drove more than 2 million from their homes and sparked a humanitarian crisis which the United Nations says has claimed 300,000 lives.

Sudanese officials had been negotiating with the kidnappers through tribal elders. The kidnappers, members of a nomadic Darfur tribe, had demanded a ransom, aid sources said.

Another government official told Reuters Jailani would be travelling to Darfur on Sunday to receive the kidnap victims.

Aid groups say they have faced increased hostility and threats since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in March for Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, to face charges that he masterminded war crimes in Darfur.