Armed men have abducted three UN refugee agency staffers, from Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region, an official says
Khartoum (AFP) - Armed men have abducted three UN refugee agency staffers, including two foreigners, from Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region, a local government official told AFP on Monday.
"A group of armed men kidnapped yesterday three UNHCR workers, two Nepalese and a Sudanese, from Geneina," the capital of West Darfur state, state government spokesman Abdelah Mustafa told AFP.
"Police are searching for the kidnappers."
UNHCR officials were not immediately available for comment, but its spokesman in Khartoum told AFP by text message that a meeting was underway to discuss the "urgent incident".
A resident from Geneina told AFP that the gunmen came in a 4x4 vehicle.
"I saw some armed men ordering the three UN employees to get into their vehicle. They then drove off quickly," he said on condition of anonymity.
"The incident happened near the main mosque of Geneina," the resident said.
Darfur has been engulfed in a deadly conflict since 2003 when ethnic minority black tribes took up arms against President Omar al-Bashir's Arab-dominated government.
As part of its counter-insurgency strategy the government turned to "Janjaweed" militias recruited from Arab tribes, and who have since been incorporated into official paramilitary units.
Experts say that militias in search of resources often turn on each other, and sometimes against the government even as Khartoum insists that violence in Darfur has ebbed.
Sunday's abduction of UNHCR staffers is not the first in Darfur as several foreign and Sudanese aid workers have been abducted in the region over the years.
At least 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in Darfur since the conflict first erupted in 2003, the UN says.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes and genocide charges related to Darfur, which he denies.
Sudan also wants UN peacekeepers who have been deployed Darfur, a region the size of France, since 2007 to leave.