Kassala — Police in eastern Sudan's Kassala freed 95 foreign hostages from the grip of a human trafficking gang last week.
On Saturday, Brig. Abdallah El Sayegh, Head of the Criminal Cases Police in Kassala, told reporters that the hostages were held in a forest east of Teringa village in Khashm El Girba locality.
A large police force managed to release them after an exchange of fire, in which no one sustained injuries. A number of kidnappers were arrested.
The Governor of Kassala, Adam Jamaa, visited the freed hostages on Saturday. He told the official Sudan News Agency on the occasion that the rescue operation of last week was the largest in terms of releasing hostages in 2017.
The authorities of Kassala plan to end all human trafficking in the region in 2018, he added.
At end September, the US State Department again included Sudan in its 'Tier 3', a list of countries accused of being reluctant to combat human trafficking within their borders.
Khartoum expressed its regrets about the decision. The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement it hoped Washington would commend "the huge efforts exerted by the government of Sudan" to stop human trafficking.
In August, eastern Sudanese reported an increase in crimes concerning refugees and asylum seekers, including kidnappings, in the region.
"The number of unlicensed vehicles and motorcycles without plates is growing accordingly," a listener told this station. "Some of these vehicles belong to the regular forces, while other cars have been smuggled into the country from neighbouring countries."
According to the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR), Sudan is one of the main transit countries for eastern Africans who want to travel to Europe by sea.
Funding by the European Commission to the Sudanese government earlier this year, to be implemented under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, contains a development aid package of €155 million, "to tackle the root causes of irregular migration in the country" and "improve migration management processes".
Sudanese activists claim that providing such funds to Khartoum are futile. They say that the aid package is used to tighten the grip of the security apparatus on the population.
On Saturday, President Omar Al Bashir imposed the State of Emergency in Kassala, to pave the way for the collection of illegal arms and unlicensed vehicles in the state. The action is part of a nationwide disarmament campaign launched in August in a bid to return security to the country.
Activists and politicians however doubt the reasons for the imposition of the State of Emergency. "The authorities do not need the State of Emergency for its disarmament campaign," the head of the Unified National Unionist Party in Kassala told this station.
"Khartoum has been distributing weapons to its loyal tribes and militias, so they know exactly where and from whom they collect the weapons," he said.