- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

KHARTOUM, SUDAN (AP) - Three foreign workers for Doctors Without Borders staff members have been freed two days after they were abducted in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region this week, said the Italian Foreign Ministry.

An official from the aid organization’s Brussels branch where the three worked, Erwin Van’t Land, also said the group had been told by the kidnappers and by the Sudanese authorities they had been released.

“But we have not been able to talk to them ourselves. We need our own independent confirmation,” he said.

A spokesman for the Sudanese Foreign Ministry, Ali Youssef, said the details for their release was being finalized, but could provide no further details.

A Sudanese government official, who was closely following the case, said the group was heading to the governor’s house in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, and that no ransom had been paid for the group’s release. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Italian foreign ministry said it did not immediately have details on where the three were at the moment they gained their freedom.

A few hours earlier, the ministry asked for a news blackout on the kidnapping while officials worked for the freedom of the Canadian nurse, Italian doctor and French coordinator of the group also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF.

The three were kidnapped on Wednesday in the volatile Darfur region.

Armed men abducted the three international aid workers and two Sudanese guards a week after the government in Khartoum ordered 13 foreign aid groups expelled.

The two Sudanese guards had been released earlier.

The expulsion order came in response to an international arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, by the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 6-year-old war in the region.

The kidnappings took place late Wednesday in a rural area known as Saraf Umra about 125 miles west of the city of El Fasher, according to a spokesman for U.N. peacekeepers in Khartoum.

The area is government controlled, and pro-government Arab militias known as janjaweed live and are based nearby.

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