Zalingei — Thirty-one people captured almost one week ago by a Darfur rebel group were released on Saturday in Central Darfur with assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
According to the governor of Central Darfur, Yousif Tibin, the group that comprises eight women and 23 men, was freed in Zalingei, the state's capital, in the afternoon. ICRC confirmed the execution of the hand over operation in a press statement.
The hostages were captured last Sunday by the rebel force Sudan Liberation Army-Abdel Wahid (SLA-AW) at a border area between Central and South Darfur. They were allegedly on their way to Nyala to attend a conference for displaced and refugees.
After the abduction, rebel spokesman Mustapha Tambour said "We told the people of UNAMID that we were representing the SLM Abdel Wahid al Nur ... [We] arrested [them] because they were almost all security people pretending to be displaced".
In a statement to Radio Dabanga, ICRC said the hand over operation would initially take place on Friday. However, "since it will be carried out through ... helicopters, which due to technical reasons were not available [on Friday], ... the operation has been postponed to [Saturday]".
SLA-AW confirmed Red Cross' statement and reaffirmed to Radio Dabanga that the captives were not IDPs, but agents affiliated to the security forces and members of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
Nevertheless, Tambour reassured to the hostages' families that the group is "in good conditions and in good health and they will all be reunited" on Saturday.
The Chairman of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) Dr. Tijani Sese condemned UNAMID for "handing over 31 displaced to an armed movement without the slightest resistance".
UNAMID, on its turn, condemned the arrest and said that despite its "opposition" the military group forced the IDPs to an unknown location. The mission said it was not able to independently verify the hostages' situation.
ICRC has reportedly assisted the return of the detainees in line with requests of the government of Sudan and of SLA-AW.