New group apparently holding SA hostages in Sudan

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A Darfuri broadcaster, Radio Dabanga, reports the four South African police advisers – two men and two women – kidnapped at gunpoint by unidentified gunmen on Sunday were taken by a new group calling itself the Movement for the Struggle of the People in Darfur.

The station says the group want a ransom of an amount equivalent to US$500 000 (a billion Sudanese pounds) and the release of their “detained leaders”. Radio Dabanga reports the group have not yet identified these leaders. “A spokesman of the group, Ibrahim Dokki, contacted Radio Dabanga saying the group is led by Mohammed Abdullah Sharar. Radio Dabanga tried to verify the backgound of the group. It seems the group is part of the Irada Hura (SLM Free Will), a mixed group that signed a Declaration of Commitment after the Darfur Peace Agreemnent in Abuja,” the broadcaster says.
“Their leader prof. Abdelrahman Musa died. The new leader, Ali Majok, was apparently appointed with support of the government and became a minister. But a faction within the group disagreed with his leadership. Adam Salih, another member of the faction, called for a meeting to contest the leadership. He in the meantime formed a new Movement for the Struggle of the People in Darfur. They signed another agreement with the government of South Darfur.” The group is now complaining that the government has not implemented the agreement and that some of its leaders have been detained by security forces, the broadcaster adds.

The station says it believes the group group is taking their hostages “towards [the] Kass area.” It adds the hybrid United Nations African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, known as UNAMID,
could not confirm the information. Spokesman Nouredine al Mezni says that UNAMID is “very worried about the kidnapped personnel” He adds UNAMID has not had any contact with the kidnappers. “We have sent the Police Commissioner of UNAMID to Nyala for leading the investigations [sic]. We have had a meeting with the representatives of the Sudanese government today”, he told Radio Dabanga. The peacekeepers, two men and two women, were reportedly taken by a group of ten gunmen.

The Sudan Tribune yesterday reported the country’s government had dispatched a special team of investigators to search for the missing South Africans. The UN News Service says the blue helmets were last seen about 4pm local time on Sunday as they departed their team site close to Nyala. They had been headed on a seven-kilometre journey towards their private accommodation but never reached their destination. UNAMID issued a statement Monday saying it had mobilised its resources in the region to search for the missing staff. The mission said it is also working closely with the Sudanese government and local authorities in a bid to locate the peacekeepers. “There have been no sightings of our staff and we are deeply concerned for their will-being,” said Gambari.

South Africa has yet to comment on the kidnapping. SA has some 165 police and about 800 soldiers in the country.

It is the second time UNAMID staff have been kidnapped. Last year two civilian staff members were taken at gunpoint from their accommodation in Zalingei in West Darfur on 29 August. The pair, a Nigerian man and a Zimbabwean woman, were detained for more than 100 days before being released in December.

Pic: SA CIVPOL on parade, November 2005.