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Sudan rebels free 125 prisoners captured in fighting

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Author: AFPTue, 2017-03-07ID: 1488833364192581600ENTEBBE: Sudanese rebels on Sunday released at least 125 prisoners they had captured in fighting with government forces, most of them soldiers, an AFP journalist said.Their release was secured thanks to mediation from Uganda, while the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) played a facilitating role.The rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) had captured the prisoners in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, where the group has been fighting Sudanese government forces for years.The longest-held prisoners had been captured in June 2009 and the most recent about six months ago.While the ICRC said 125 people had been freed, Sudanese military spokesman Brig. Ahmed Khalifa Al-Shami put the number at 127 — including 109 soldiers and 18 civilians.“The Sudanese Army recognizes this as a positive step toward achieving peace in the country,” Shami said in a statement.Ethnic minority rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan have been fighting government forces since 2011, accusing President Omar Bashir’s Arab-dominated government of politically and economically marginalizing the two regions.Fighting in the two areas and in Darfur has left tens of thousands of people dead and displaced millions.Khartoum announced a unilateral cease-fire in June 2016 in all three conflict zones, which it extended by six months in January.UN officials say that for years Blue Nile and South Kordofan have been no-go areas for aid officials, leaving thousands of people without access to humanitarian relief.In a statement, the ICRC said it had “facilitated the release and repatriation of 125 people.”The agency said it had transported the released prisoners from South Sudan to Entebbe in Uganda and onward to Sudan.“The entire transfer operation took place over four days,” the ICRC said, adding that it had followed a request from Kampala, Khartoum, Juba and the SPLM-N.“We are very pleased that these people will finally return to their families,” the ICRC’s head of delegation in Sudan, Gerard Peytrignet, said.
Main category: Middle-East

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