Kidnappers of aid workers say Chad talks stalled

Sat Apr 25, 2009 7:48am EDT
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By Yara Bayoumy

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Kidnappers holding two foreign aid workers in western Sudan's volatile Darfur region said on Saturday talks with the government of neighboring Chad had stalled.

Canadian Stephanie Joidon and Frenchwoman Claire Dubois were seized at gunpoint from their compound in the south Darfur settlement of Ed el Fursan on April 4. Their kidnappers want Paris to retry members of Zoe's Ark, a French humanitarian group, convicted but later pardoned over the abduction of children from Chad.

The exact nature of the Chad talks have not been revealed but the kidnappers had been hoping Chad would pressure France into reopening the case.

"The negotiations were not successful. Tension will rise in this situation," an unidentified kidnapper told Reuters via satellite phone near the Chad border. "The delegation returned yesterday because we wanted to guarantee its safety."

Earlier this week, the group calling itself the Freedom Eagles of Africa said a team would meet a senior Chad official for talks.

The kidnapper said Dubois was ill and her health was deteriorating.

"We've moved them to another place. The French hostage isn't in good condition and still has diarrhea. The hostages are eating one meal a day and we are drinking out of unhealthy wells," the kidnapper said. "The French woman may become a victim."

Six members of Zoe's Ark were jailed in 2007 for trying to fly children aged between one and 10 out of Chad to Europe. Chad said they had no authorization to take the children out of the country.   Continued...