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Three UN Air Service Crew Freed from Captivity in Darfur

Three UN Air Service Crew Members Freed from Captivity in Darfur

New York, Dec 8 2010 2:10PM

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed the news that three Latvian men working as helicopter aircrew for the agency’s humanitarian air service in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region have been freed after more than a month in captivity.

“We are so grateful that these three men have been freed and our thoughts are with their families in Latvia who will be reunited with them in the coming days,” said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran.

The three men – Captain Artjoms Nalbandjans, co-pilot Janis Gindra and mechanic Kaspars Reihlers – were seized by gunmen in the South Darfur capital of Nyala on 4 November while carrying out vital humanitarian work for the UN in Sudan.

They will be flown to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, before travelling home to Latvia, WFP said in a news release.

“Throughout their detention, WFP was assured that they were safe and well WFP worked closely with the Government of Sudan at all levels for the safe release of the three men,” stated the agency.

Run by WFP, the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flies aid workers from the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as journalists and others, to some of the hardest-to-reach emergency operations around the world.

It plays a vital role in accessing remote locations and in cases where insecurity prevents travel by road.

ENDS

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