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Cablegate: Unamid Workers Kidnapped in Darfur; No Americans Involved

VZCZCXRO8829
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #0994 2421320
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 301320Z AUG 09 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4337
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000994

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y - PARA 2,3 GARBLED/MISSING TEXT

NSC FOR MGAVIN, LETIM
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM SU
SUBJECT: UNAMID Workers Kidnapped in Darfur; No Americans Involved

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On Saturday August 29, armed men seized two
expatriates working in a civilian capacity for the joint
U.N.-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the peacekeeping
force in Darfur. One kidnapping victim is a Nigerian citizen who
may have family in the United States, and the second is a ZimbabQn
citizen. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On Saturday August 29, arQ men seized two expatriatesQworking in a civilian capacity for the joint U.N.-African Union
Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the peacekeeping force in Darfur. The
assailants, who are as yet unidentified, took a male Nigerian
citizen and female Zimbabwean citizen UN Volunteer (UNV) from their
residence in the town of Zalingei in West Darfur in the early
morning hours of Saturday, August 29. According to UN reports, the
kidnappers entered the UNAMID residence between 0330 and 0430 and
departed with the two staff shortly thereafter.

3. (SBU) On August 29, UNAMID spokesman Noureddine Mezni noted that
the kidnapping of UNAMID staff was a worrying development. "We are
appealing to them to release the captives. We are here to help the
people of Darfur," he said, adding the kidnappers had phoned UNAMID
soon after the abduction saying they were ready to talk. Mezni
declined to give details of the kidnappers' demands but Sudanese
State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Abdel Baqi Al-Jailani stated
that they are bandits and "have asked for a ransom".

4. (SBU) Conoff investigated rumors that the male captive holds dual
citizenship in America and Nigeria. The PIERS passport database
retrieved no results for an individual with his name, and, as of
August 29, the captive was not registered at any U.S. Embassy.
UNAMID staff told Conoff and confirmed to Charge August 30 that they
have no reason to believe either abductee holds U.S. citizenship,
but stated that the male captive does have a wife and children in
the United States. Conoff called the Nigerian embassy to confirm
this information, but the Nigerian Embassy was unaware that the
abduction had occurred. Conoff requested that UNAMID follow up by
providing any information they receive as to the captive's family in
the United States.

5. (SBU) The kidnapping is the fourth kidnapping of international
staff to take place since March 2009, but is the first time that
kidnappers have targeted UNAMID. Two women from Irish charity GOAL
remain in captivity after being taken hostage in early July; August
30 is the 58th day of their captivity. The abduction occurred two
days after UNAMID's departing commander, General Martin Luther
Agwai, told reporters that Darfur suffered from banditry but was no
longer in a state of war.

6. (SBU) Zalingei is located in West Darfur's Jebel Marra area,
approximately 100 km (or 60 miles) east from the Chadian border. It
is the birthplace of some of Darfur's best-known rebels, including
Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/AW) leader Abdel Wahed Mohamed Ahmed
al-Nur, and is traditionally a hotbed of anQgovernment sentiment.
SLA/AW has denied that any of its fighters were responsible for the
kidnapping,Q suggested inQvement of government-allied
militias.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: The kidnapping adds pressure to the strife-torn
region's relief effort, already reeling from bandit attacks,
carjackings, and the government's expulsion of humanitarian
agencies.
Whitehead

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