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Sudan Frees Swiss Aid Worker Abducted in Darfur

Sudan Frees Swiss Aid Worker Abducted in Darfur

Thursday, 16 November, 2017 - 09:15
Swiss aid worker Margaret Schenkel looks as she arrives after release in Darfur at Khartoum Airport, Sudan November 15, 2017. Reuters

Sudanese security forces have freed a Swiss aid worker, who was abducted by an unknown group last month in El Fasher city, north of Darfur, and brought her to Khartoum late Wednesday.

Media Director of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) said that forces have carried out a security operation in which they freed the hostage, without providing any further explanation.

Media consultant of the office of North Darfur Governor Khalid Marioud has earlier said that Rapid Support Forces, which is affiliated with Sudanese armed forces, along with NISS have freed the Swiss aid worker Margaret Schenkel, 72.

No one has revealed until now the "group that was holding the aid worker", and no explanation was provided on the reasons for the abduction or how she was freed.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry has been calling for the immediate and unconditional release of its citizen, and it charged the Swiss embassy in Khartoum to stay in contact with the authorities until the abduction issue is resolved.

The abduction motives might be extortion for ransom, said a local official, but Sudanese officials stressed the government's refusal to pay any ransom.

Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, for his part, said that his government's policies refuse to pay any ransom to free any abducted Sudanese or foreign citizen.

Unknown gunmen in October kidnapped the Swiss aid worker, who had lived in Sudan for many years, from near her residence in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur.

Witnesses said the gunmen forced Schenkel to ride their car at gunpoint and then took her to an unknown location where she remained until her release.

Schenkel works in the humanitarian field as she has been providing aid and assistance to children in the state and running a center to treat malnourished children.

During her 30-year career in Sudan, she established many service centers and volunteered in several areas of the country, in the east, north and west.

In another development, the Sudanese press scene has been tense for weeks because of proposed amendments to the controversial press law, deemed unconstitutional and dedicated to further restricting press freedoms.

Dozens of Sudanese journalists Wednesday demonstrated against a press law proposed by the council of ministers.

The journalists gathered at the headquarters of the Sudanese Press and Publication Council, waving banners and calling for “freedom of expression”.

Journalist Shamai Alnur was arrested during the protests, but she was released hours later.

Alnur told Asharq Al-Awsat that security men wearing civilian clothes arrested her before the National Council for Press and Publications (NCPP), confiscated her phone and took her to a security headquarters.

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