Freed Western aid workers to leave Khartoum Friday

Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:13pm EDT
 
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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Two Western aid workers freed after being held hostage for more than three weeks in Sudan's western Darfur region will leave Khartoum Friday, a French government official said in the Sudanese capital Thursday.

Frenchwoman Claire Dubois and Canadian Stephanie Joidon were released Wednesday by kidnappers who called themselves the Freedom Eagles of Africa. The pair were abducted at gunpoint from their compound in the southern Darfur settlement of Ed el Fursan on April 4.

"It is not normal for those who help the people of Darfur to find themselves in this kind of situation, the violence has to stop," said Bruno Joubert, one of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's diplomatic advisers.

He was speaking at a news conference at al-Amal National Hospital where the two aid workers, looking tired but who were smiling, were present. Joubert later added they would leave "very early tomorrow morning."

The kidnappers 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.

Kidnappings of foreign aid workers were very rare in Darfur before a group calling itself the Eagles of Bashir seized four employees of the Belgian arm of Medecins Sans Frontieres in North Darfur last month.

The MSF workers were released unharmed three days later.

(Reporting by Yara Bayoumy)