Nigerian peacekeeper freed after 54 days’ capture in Sudan’s Darfur

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KHARTOUM  (AFP) – A peacekeeper in Sudan’s Darfur region has been freed safely after almost two months in captivity, the African Union-UN mission (UNAMID) there said Thursday.

The abduction of Nigerian Sergeant Awesu Soleiman had not been previously announced.

The man was released in the South Darfur capital Nyala, a statement said, without saying who had seized him.

“Sgt Awesu was abducted while driving a UNAMID water truck from Dereige IDP Camp to UNAMID Super Camp in Nyala Town” on March 9 at about 4:50 pm, it said.

The incident occurred during what UNAMID chief Mohamed Ibn Chambas has called an “alarming escalation of violence” in Darfur this year.

He said activities of the government’s Rapid Support Forces were of “particular concern” but rebel offensives, criminal activity and inter-communal fighting also contributed.

There were 16 fatal attacks against UNAMID last year, resulting in “significant loss of vehicles, weapons and ammunition,” a report by UN chief Ban Ki-moon says.

A separate UN panel of experts said “Janjaweed groups,” or ethnic Arab militias, almost certainly played a leading role in two of the major fatal attacks, with robbery the likely motive.

But Sudan’s government has said it is impossible that militia close to the regime have attacked peacekeepers.

Chambas thanked Sudan’s government, the governor of South Darfur and the Nigerian government for their help in securing the peacekeeper’s freedom.

In a separate case, UNAMID announced on March 18 that a person working at the mission “went missing” on March 11 in the North Darfur state capital El Fasher.

There have been no further details.

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