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Sudan: ICRC calls for release of staff and patients

06-11-1996 News Release 96/35

Geneva (ICRC) - An aircraft of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been held on the ground since 1 November in Wunruk, near Gogrial in the south-western Sudanese region of Bahr-al-Ghazal. The forces of local commander Kerubino (a dissident officer of the Sudan People's Liberation Army) are holding the aircraft's pilot, his co-pilot, an ICRC nurse and five Sudanese nationals.

Accusations that the plane was carrying weapons and ammunition are without foundation; the ICRC categorically denies them and calls for those held to be released immediately and the aircraft to be allowed to depart.

As part of its work in southern Sudan, the ICRC regularly evacuates wounded and sick civilians and combatants whose condition requires urgent surgical care, flying them out to its hospitals in Juba, southern Sudan, and Lokichokio, in northern Kenya. The aircraft grounded in Wunruk had on board five persons returning home following treatment. Such flights are organized with the consent of the government of the Republic of Sudan as well as of the various southern Sudanese factions and individual military commanders on the ground.

Contacts have been made both in Khartoum and the south of the country with a view to obtaining the release of those held. In the meantime, the ICRC has decided to suspend all movements by its delegates in the field until the affair has been fully resolved.

The ICRC is present throughout southern Sudan, working openly in areas held by all parties to the conflict. With over 60 expatriate and 500 local staff in Sudan and Lokichokio, its activities focus on medical and surgical care, agricultural rehabil itation and protection for civilians and detainees.