KHARTOUM: Rebels in Sudan’s Darfur have freed two Ukrainians and a Sudanese held captive since early August after their helicopter made an emergency landing, their employer said yesterday.
Babikir Gasmelkhalig, owner of Dindir Aviation, said that the crew were released on Tuesday evening. But he added that rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army’s Minni Minnawi faction were still holding their helicopter. Gasmelkhalig said the three men were fine and were at a hotel in the South Darfur state capital Nyala.
The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said that the Mi-8 helicopter had been contracted by the mission to deliver supplies and was not carrying UN markings when it went down on August 3 southeast of Nyala. Officials with the rebel group could not immediately comment.
“The Sudanese foreign ministry has just now confirmed that the crew of the Mi-8 helicopter, including two citizens of Ukraine..., were released last night,” a spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry told reporters in Kiev. The spokesman added that the Ukrainian crew members were now staying in Nyala city.
Hussein Minnawi, a member of the Minnawi group’s political bureau, earlier said that an investigation was underway and if the helicopter were proven to belong to a private firm and not the government, he expected it to be released. AFP