Ten aid workers kidnapped by rebel forces in South Sudan last week have been released, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The ICRC said in a statement that it transported the 10 — all South Sudanese workers — by air from a site near the town of Yei to the capital, Juba, on Monday.
Lam Paul Gabriel, a spokesman for the rebel SPLM-IO, acknowledged the group took the workers into custody last Wednesday. He said the workers failed to consult the group before coming to the Yei area.
“If you are coming to our territory you need to consult with us," he told VOA's South Sudan in Focus. "If you don’t consult with us we didn’t know your intention. We need to know what you are coming to do in our territory. You tell us that you are coming to do A, B, C, and D."
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, reported the workers missing and presumed kidnapped last Wednesday. OCHA said their convoy was headed from Yei to Tore County to conduct a humanitarian needs assessment at the time.
The missing workers were from OCHA, along with the U.N. children’s agency or UNICEF, the Association of Christian Resources Serving Sudan, known as ACROSS, Action Africa Help, Plan International, and the South Sudanese Development Organization, or SSDO.
OCHA negotiated the aid workers' release, with the ICRC working out the logistics for bringing them back to Juba.
"We had two helicopters today that travelled to an area around Yei, South Sudan where we collected the ten aid workers," said Crystal Wells, an ICRC spokeswoman in Nairobi. "We had a team of three ICRC staff on board including one doctor and we transported them to Juba. And once again, thankfully, they are now safe and sound in Juba and are able to return to their lives, return to their families.”
Aid workers are often targeted by armed groups in South Sudan, which has been in the midst of a war between supporters of President Salva Kiir and those of his former deputy, Riek Machar, since 2013.
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