UN, Norwegian Peoples Aid and Mechem South African Demining Workers abducted/arrested in South Sudan
Sudan arrests foreigners in disputed border region April 29, 2012
Sudan said it had arrested a Briton, a Norwegian and a South African on Saturday, accusing them of illegally entering a disputed oil-producing border area to spy for its enemy South Sudan.
South Sudanese officials denied the allegations and said the men were working with the United Nations and aid groups clearing mines and had got lost in the remote territory close to the boundary between the two countries.
Sudanese army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khaled said the three were arrested in Heglig – the scene of recent fighting between Sudan and South Sudan – travelling with a South Sudanese soldier in vehicles carrying military equipment.
“It is now confirmed without any doubt that South Sudan used the help of foreigners in their attack on Heglig. These foreigners were doing military work such as spying out the areas … They had military equipment … They have a military background,” Sawarmi said.
The group had been flown to Khartoum, he added.
A Reuters witness saw four men arriving on a civilian plane at Khartoum’s military airport.
One of the men, a Westerner, was wearing a t-shirt marked with the slogan “Norwegian People’s Aid. Mine Action South Africa”. Reporters were not allowed to talk to the men who were swiftly driven away in an unmarked white van.
Agency France Presse Canada April 29, 2012
KHARTOUM – A South African demining company on Sunday said two of its workers were abducted by the Sudanese military while on a UN landmine clearance contract in South Sudan.
Ashley Williams, CEO of state-owned Mechem, said its employees, a South African and a local South Sudanese, were abducted with a British UN employee and a Norwegian.
Williams rejected suggestions by the Sudanese army spokesman that the men were working in support of South Sudan in its “aggression” against the north.
“It’s humanitarian work so the story of them being military advisers and this type of thing is completely and utterly nonsense and not true,” said Williams.
“We are doing humanitarian landmine clearance on a UN contract and our members have full UN immunity. The abduction took place well within South Sudan territory,” he told AFP, saying the group were travelling south between two UN bases.
“Then they grabbed them and drove back to Heglig with them where they then said they’ve arrested them in this disputed area while they weren’t there at all.”
A team remained in the area, which the United Nations would bring out with protection over fears of similar action, Williams said.
Sudanese army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad on Saturday said the group were captured within Sudan’s borders in the tense Heglig oil area.
“This confirms what we said before, that South Sudan in its aggression against Heglig was supported by foreign experts,” he told reporters after the four were flown to the capital Khartoum.
“We captured them inside Sudan’s borders, in the Heglig area, and they were collecting war debris for investigation,” Saad said.
He added that all four had military backgrounds, and were accompanied by military equipment and a military vehicle. He did not elaborate.
In the most serious fighting since the South’s independence, Juba’s troops occupied Sudan’s main oil region of Heglig for 10 days, a move which coincided with Sudanese air strikes against the South.
Sudan declared on April 20 that its troops had forced the Southern soldiers out of Heglig, but the South said it withdrew of its own accord.
Jan Ledang, country director for the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) mission in South Sudan, identified one of the captives as its employee John Sorbo.
“It’s impossible that they were in Heglig – they were in Pariang” about a 90-minute drive from Heglig in the South’s Unity state, Ledang said.
They were doing follow-up demining work in the area, he added.
The four were on a de-mining mission “and one of them was from the UN”, said Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan
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