Three Lativan pilots kidnapped in Darfur-WFP

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Three Latvian helicopter crewmen contracted to the UN World Food Programme were kidnapped in the South Darfur capital Nyala, a WFP spokeswoman said.

The South Darfur governor, Abdel Hamid Kasha, had earlier said the three were Russian. The abductions are the latest in a wave of kidnaps targeting foreign workers for money in Darfur.
“The abducted crew members are all Latvian nationals,” WFP spokeswoman Amor Almagro said.

Kasha said the three men were taken from a minibus in Nyala on Thursday. Security forces were seeking the kidnappers.

He told Reuters he believed the kidnappers were the same as those who abducted Russian airmen in Nyala in August.

Russia directed rare criticism at its ally Sudan for being unable to stop the kidnapping of foreigners for money in Darfur.

The kidnaps for ransom of foreign aid and peacekeeping staff in Darfur began after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for Darfur war crimes in 2009.

All have been released safely but Sudan’s failure to prosecute any of the kidnappers and reports that ransoms have been paid have fuelled the crimes.

After a quiet period because of heavy rains, fighting between the Sudanese army and the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) resumed this week.

On Friday a battle in North Kordofan, a region neighbouring Darfur, killed at least two government soldiers with 20 injured.
“We received information that they were moving so we attacked them,” an army spokesman said. “It was a small clash.” He said the rebels suffered losses but could not give figures.

JEM confirmed they had been attacked by the government. Both sides claimed victory. Qatar-based peace talks have yielded little progress and JEM and the other main rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) are refusing direct talks.

Divisions among the rebels and continued military operations have derailed continuing talks since an April 2004 ceasefire.



The United Nations estimates 300,000 people have died since mostly non-Arab Darfur rebels took up arms in 2003, demanding a greater share of wealth and power from central government.