10 South Sudan Aid Workers Are Abducted, U.N. Says
Ten relief workers traveling in South Sudan have been abducted by an armed group, the United Nations said Thursday. The kidnapping underscores the risks to humanitarian aid providers in the war-torn African country.
A statement from the United Nations said the aid workers, all from South Sudan, disappeared on Wednesday during a trip through the southern part of the country. The statement gave no details on the armed group that seized them or its demands.
This is the third time in six months that a group of aid workers has been held by militants in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country. At least 98 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since it devolved into civil war in 2013, just two years after it was founded. The majority of the aid workers killed since the conflict began are South Sudanese.
The United Nations statement called for the release of the workers “without condition so that their work can continue.”
“We are deeply concerned about the whereabouts of these humanitarian workers and are urgently seeking information about their well-being,” Alain Noudehou, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, said in the statement. Aid organizations working in the country, he said, “are here to help the people of South Sudan and should not be targeted.”
The aid workers disappeared as their convoy was traveling from Yei to the town of Tore, about 50 miles northwest, in the restive Central Equatoria region.
Newsletter Sign Up
Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box.
Invalid email address. Please re-enter.
You must select a newsletter to subscribe to.
You agree to receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services.
Thank you for subscribing.
An error has occurred. Please try again later.
You are already subscribed to this email.
The South Sudanese army, loyal to President Salva Kiir, has repeatedly clashed with rebel groups loyal to the deposed vice president, Riek Machar. Both sides have been accused of targeting aid workers and of widespread human rights abuses.
Because of the violence in the region, much of the Greater Equatoria area has become inaccessible to humanitarian groups.
Yei is controlled by an opposition rebel group loyal to Mr. Machar, but its governor, Frank Matata, said he did not believe the group was behind the kidnapping. Earlier this week, he said, there were skirmishes in the area between the rebels and a breakaway faction. He said it was not known who is holding the aid workers or where they are.
All of the missing are South Sudanese citizens working for the United Nations and other international organizations. One is from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; two from Unicef; one from the South Sudanese Development Organization, two from Across, a Christian aid group; three from Plan International; and one from Action Africa Help.
“I firmly condemn the latest attack against colleagues engaged in emergency humanitarian assistance in Central Equatoria and call on all parties to the conflict in South Sudan to ensure a safe and secure environment, conducive to the delivery of assistance,” Mr. Noudehou said.
Jina Moore contributed reporting.