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Cablegate: Irish Ambassador Provides Update On Hostages' Situation

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKH #1040/01 2530908
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 100908Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4398
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC 0051
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC 0087
INFO RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0455
RUEHDL/AMEMBASSY DUBLIN 0011
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 0112

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001040

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS


DEPT FOR S/USSES, AF, EUR, M, DS, S/ES-O/CMS, INR, AND CA NSC FOR
LINDA ETIM AND JOHN BRENNAN. POSTS FOR RSO AND LEGAT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PTER PGOV CASC SU
SUBJECT: IRISH AMBASSADOR PROVIDES UPDATE ON HOSTAGES' SITUATION

REF: A) Khartoum 1024; 09/04/09
B) Khartoum 994; 08/30/09
C) Khartoum 894; 08/04/09

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Irish Ambassador Gerard Corr (resident in Cairo)
met with DCM Asquino on September 8 to update him on the status of
the two aid workers, Irish national Sharon Cummins and Ugandan
citizen Hilda Kawuki, who were kidnapped in North Darfur on July 3.
Ambassador Corr confirmed that Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin
had been in Khartoum September 6-7, working with the Government of
Sudan (GOS) to expedite the release of the two aid workers. Based
on developments during Irish FM's visit, Ambassador Corr seemed
relatively optimistic that the hostages might be released by the end
of the Ramadan holiday, which concludes on or about September 20.
Ambassador Corr requested that during Special Envoy Gration's
current visit to Sudan, he raise with GOS officials, including Dr.
Ghazi Selahaddin, the USG's strong support for a peaceful resolution
of the hostage taking situation that will result in the two women
being released. The DCM relayed this request to Charge Whitehead,
who is with SE Gration and his delegation in Juba. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) The DCM, RSO, and Poloff met with at his request with
Irish Ambassador Gerard Corr on September 8 to discuss the latest
developments in the hostage-taking of Irish national Sharon Cummins
and Ugandan citizen Hilda Kawuki. The two female aid workers, who
work for GOAL, an Irish non-governmental organization (NGO), were
kidnapped on July 3 when armed gunmen invaded the GOAL compound in
Kutum, North Darfur. Ambassador Corr told the DCM that the
kidnappers had previously requested two million USD in exchange for
the hostages. As of three days ago, the group had lowered its
ransom demand to 300,000 USD. Ambassador Corr added that he
believed the group, which was initially eleven members, may now have
dwindled to four individuals. At no point has the group made any
political demands. Their motivation in the abduction clearly is for
criminal gain according to the ambassador.

3. (SBU) Ambassador Corr described Irish Foreign Minister Michael
Martin's September 6-7 visit to Khartoum as productive. Based on a
conversation between the Irish FM and Presidential Adviser Dr. Ghazi
Selahaddin, Ambassador Corr said he was optimistic that a resolution
would be reached by the end of the Ramadan holiday. Ambassador Corr
reported that shortly after the kidnapping, Sudan State Minister for
Humanitarian Affairs Abdel Baqi al-Jailani was appointed to take the
lead in dealing with the Irish in this matter. During the previous
two hostage-taking incidents, the French and Canadian government
representatives dealt almost exclusively with the National
Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

4. (SBU) The Irish believe there was a failed attempt to secure the
hostages' release three weeks ago when the GOS, presumably at the
recommendation of al-Jailani, provided financial compensation and
possibly gifts in kind, such as jeep vehicles, to Kutum tribal and
religious leaders. NISS had helicopters standing by and dispatched
a fixed-wing aircraft to El Fasher, but the hostages were never
handed over. Since that time, GOS seems to have taken a much harder
line with the kidnappers and asked the Irish not to negotiate or
interfere with their new isolation technique.

5. (SBU) This change in strategy might have also been prompted by
the kidnapping of two UNAMID civilians in Zalingei, West Darfur on
August 29 (ref b). The latter was the fourth hostage-taking
incident in Darfur to occur within the last six months. The Irish
Ambassador confided that GOS officials have discussed using force to
carry out a rescue attempt, termed as "Plan B," but they have
promised they would not do so unless the hostages were under serious
threat. NISS has reportedly indicated the next few days are
extremely important for a successful release of the hostages.

6. (SBU) Ambassador Corr requested that during Special Envoy
Gration's current visit to Sudan, he raise with GOS officials,
including Dr. Ghazi Selahaddin, the USG's strong support for a
peaceful resolution of the hostage taking situation that will result
in the two women being released. The DCM relayed this request to
Charge Whitehead, who is with SE Gration and his delegation in Juba.
Ambassador Corr said that the Embassy of Ireland in Washington will
also be in contact with the Department to request such support.


7. (SBU) Comment: Ambassador Corr appeared to be more cautiously
optimistic during this visit than on past occasions that there is
now "a greater GOS determination" to resolve the hostage crisis in
the coming weeks. The Post continues to monitor this case closely
in addition to the separate kidnappings of two United
Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) expatriate
civilians in Zalengei, West Darfur. The RSO intends to travel to
Darfur September 10-12 to follow-up with UNAMID security officials.
The Mission will also continue to liaise closely with the Irish
Hostage Negotiations Unit based in Khartoum. End Comment.

WHITEHEAD

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