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South Sudan aid workers freed a week after abduction

Aid workers offering assistance [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 April, 2018

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The humanitarian workers went missing in Central Equatoria, a region that has seen an uptick in abductions of aid workers in recent weeks.

Ten aid workers in South Sudan were released a week after being abducted, the UN said on Monday. 

Among the abductees were three UN staff and seven humanitarian workers, all Sudanese nationals. They went missing last week after their convoy was hijacked enroute to Central Equatoria province. 

The aid workers were employed by the South Sudanese Development Organization, ACROSS, Plan International, Action Africa Help and others. 

Last week's incident marks the second kidnapping of aid workers in less than one month in South Sudan. In both cases, the workers were released in the same area. 

The UN says it's "outraged" at the deteriorating situation for aid workers in the country. Last week, a humanitarian was also killed in Leer County, bringing to 100 the number of aid workers killed since the onset of South Sudan's five-year civil war.

"I am deeply concerned by the insecurity faced by aid workers in South Sudan, who are risking their lives to save others," said the UN's humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Alain Noudehou.

Opposition forces loyal to former Vice-President Riek Machar have claimed responsibility for the most recent abductions saying that the UN is sending humanitarians into rebel-controlled areas without clearance.

"This is undermining the leadership of the (opposition) and it has to stop immediately as it has resulted into misunderstandings and endangering of lives of the workers and our displaced population," opposition spokesman, Lam Paul Gabriel said in a statement.

The opposition's leadership found out about the detained aid workers two days ago and immediately ordered their release, Gabriel told AP.

But the UN says it never enters into an area to deliver aid until negotiations with all parties are completed.

South Sudan's government says the opposition is executing a "mass starvation" strategy for people in the Equatoria region and wants rebel commanders to be held to account by the East African regional bloc leading the upcoming peace talks.

Right groups are calling on all warring factions to stop targeting aid workers and for South Sudan's authorities to investigate the attacks and hold those responsible to account.

"Attacks on aid workers have become the norm in South Sudan with dozens killed, injured or have disappeared since the conflict began. This flagrant violation of international law must come to an end," said Seif Magango, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for East Africa.

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