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19.07.2009 Sudan

Darfur rebels free Sudan soldiers: Red Cross

By AFP
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KHARTOUM (AFP) - Rebels in Sudan's troubled Darfur region freed a group of 14 Sudanese soldiers on Saturday, the Red Cross said.

It did not say how long they had been held but the Sudan Liberation Army faction led by Minni Minnawi said on April 6 that it had captured 16 troops.

The rebels said they took the prisoners and killed other soldiers during a rebel occupation of Muhagiriya and Labado, two communities about 100 kilometres (62 miles) east of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

"Fourteen soldiers of the Sudanese Armed Forces were released today by the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minnawi (SLA-MM)," the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

The ICRC "facilitated their handover to the Sudanese authorities" after the authorities and SLA-MM asked for Red Cross assistance.

ICRC delegates accompanied the freed soldiers as they were taken by helicopter to Nyala, the statement said.

On Wednesday, Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein said his troops were 25 kilometres (16 miles) from Muhagiriya and were preparing to confront the insurgents there.

An extended rebel occupation of an area is unusual as they normally stage hit-and-run attacks.

Ethnic minority insurgents in Darfur rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government in 2003.

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