The Chinese nationals, although frail, looked visibly relieved on arrival aboard an ICRC aircraft that touched down at 5.35 p.m. The ICRC head of the Nairobi regional delegation, Christoph Luedi and regional surgeon, Dr Mauro Dalla Torre, accompanied them. On arrival, the Chinese Ambassador to Nairobi, Liu Guangyuan, received the nationals among other officials.
''The operation went smoothly,'' said ICRC's Christoph Luedi.
''When these people saw the Chinese officials coming, speaking to them in their language, they were quite happy. They received food and drinks during the flight. Of course some of them were really tired so they got some sleep on the plane," he added.
Mr Luedi said that the ICRC assisted in this operation on humanitarian grounds, after all the parties concerned accepted its offer to serve as a neutral intermediary.
''This was an excellent cooperation, very close….between the Chinese embassy here in Nairobi and the Chinese embassy in Sudan, and other authorities in the countries concerned,'' he told journalists at the airport.
Mr Liu Guangyuan thanked the ICRC for its role in facilitating the transfer of the Chinese citizens. ''On behalf of the Chinese Government, we would like to say thank you for an excellent job,'' he noted as the two signed official handover documents.
Over the past few years, the ICRC has undertaken its role of neutral intermediary between Governments and different armed groups in various parts of the world to ensure the safe return of the released. The ICRC stands ready to provide support for any similar operation in the future if the parties ask it to do so.