KHARTOUM, Sudan – Two foreign aid workers seized at gunpoint more than three months ago in Sudan's Darfur region were released Saturday by their captors, a Sudanese government official said.
The Irish and Ugandan women were in good health and were having medical checkups at a hospital in northern Darfur, said Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs, Abdel-Baqi al-Jailani.
The two women were taken hostage on July 3 in the western region of Sudan, where government forces have been battling rebels for more than six years. The Irish woman, Sharon Commins, and her Ugandan colleague, Hilda Kuwuki, were working for Irish humanitarian aid agency GOAL.
Shortly after they were seized, Jailani had said the kidnappers were seeking a ransom and did not appear to have political motives, though on Saturday he told The Associated Press no ransom was paid. He gave few details on how the release came about, except to say it involved the cooperation of local and federal governments as well as tribal leaders in the region.
It was the third kidnapping of foreign humanitarian workers in Sudan's remote western region since March, when an international court issued an arrest warrant for the country's president on charges of orchestrating war crimes there.
Aid organizations working in Darfur have preferred to work without security from the government or peacekeepers in the region to avoid appearing to be taking sides in the conflict, making them more vulnerable.
The series of abductions, along with Sudan's expulsion of 13 international aid agencies in response to the arrest warrant, struck a blow to the vital aid effort in the desert region.
Fighting has declined in Darfur, but aid agencies say the humanitarian situation remains a pressing problem.
Sudan's Arab-dominated government has been battling ethnic African rebels in Darfur since 2003. Up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes.
The International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, issued a warrant for the arrest of President Omar al-Bashir on charges he orchestrated a counterinsurgency in Darfur that included atrocities committed by allied militia. He has denied the charges and ignored the warrant.