Darfur kidnappers release Canadian aid worker

Wed Apr 29, 2009 3:15pm EDT
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By Khalid Abdel Aziz and Yara Bayoumy

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Kidnappers have freed two Western female aid workers they captured in Sudan's western Darfur region more than three weeks ago and the women are in the hands of the Sudanese government, an official said Wednesday.

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.

"The Sudanese government confirms the release of the aid workers and we have informed the French government about their release," Foreign Ministry official Ali Youssef told Reuters.

"They are in the Sudanese government's hands in Darfur. They are in good health and they will soon be moved to Khartoum."

The group, which calls itself the Freedom Eagles of Africa, had been demanding that Paris retry members of Zoe's Ark, a French humanitarian group, convicted but later pardoned over the abduction of children from Chad.

Earlier one of the kidnappers told Reuters the workers from women's aid group Aide Medicale Internationale (AMI) had been handed over to a tribal leader in Darfur.

"We handed over the hostages to the leader of the Bani-Halba tribe and the mayor of Ed el Fursan," he told Reuters via satellite phone.

In Paris, AMI's spokesman, Frederic Mars, said: "It seems that things are going in the right direction." But he could not confirm their release and said AMI had not spoken to the women.   Continued...