UN mission welcomes release of Red Cross worker abducted in eastern Chad


8 February - Another international aid worker abducted in the strife-torn Sudanese-Chadian border area has been released in a move hailed by the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which has had some of its own members kidnapped.

French International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid worker Laurent Maurice, who was taken by unidentified gunmen in November in eastern Chad while on a harvest assessment mission just 10 kilometres from the border with Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region, was released on Saturday and immediately flown to Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, where he received medical attention.

UNAMID Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari said the release was particularly welcome as the mission too had faced a similar ordeal last year when two of its members were abducted, only to be released after more than 100 days in captivity.

Another ICRC staffer, abducted in West Darfur state in October, still remains in captivity. Mr. Gambari stressed the importance of aid work undertaken by UN and humanitarian workers in Darfur and called upon all parties to refrain from impeding their work.

UNAMID was set up in 2007 to try to quell the violence in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others displaced in a nearly seven-year conflict pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.

The mission has reached about 70 per cent of its authorized strength of 19,555 troops and 4,449 police officers, and still lacks key military elements, including a series of medium utility helicopters considered vital in the remote region.