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MSF aid workers kidnapped in Sudan

ARMED men have abducted three international aid workers and two Sudanese guards in Darfur, a week after the government in Khartoum ordered aid groups expelled in response to an international arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, officials said yesterday.

The kidnapping - believed to be the first of Westerners in Darfur - took place late on Wednesday in a rural area about 200 kilometers west of the city of al-Fasher, said Noureddine Mezni, a spokesman for UN peacekeepers in Khartoum.

Mezni said the kidnapped were from the Doctors Without Borders' Belgian branch and that they were taken from their offices in the Saraf Umra area. The Sudanese guards were later released. The area is government-controlled but Arab militias live and are based nearby.

Susan Sandars in Nairobi, Kenya, a spokeswoman for the group, also known as Medicins Sans Frontiers, said that "armed men came into the compound last night, taking three international staff and two Sudanese, who were later released."

The three abducted include a Canadian nurse, an Italian doctor and a French coordinator, she said, adding that there was no information on the motive or the whereabouts of the kidnapped.

The kidnapping come after Sudan expelled 13 aid groups - including the French and Dutch branches of Doctors Without Borders.

Late yesterday, Christopher Stokes, director of MSF Belgium, said in Brussels that MSF had decided to pull out all its remaining staff from Darfur.

"We are trying to negotiate for the moment the release of our colleagues," Stokes said. "The only people that will stay behind are the people dealing with trying to secure the freedom of our colleagues."


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