Five members of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) -Belgium staff were kidnapped from their office in Saraf Umra, North Darfur on Wednesday night. The two Sudanese staff members were released on Thursday, but the three foreign nationals remained in the abductors’ custody until today.
MSF’s Belgium branch was not among the 13 aid agencies expelled late last week, but the kidnapping incited concern that increased violence against international aid agencies may be one way that the Sudanese government will retaliate against the ICC arrest warrant for President Bashir. Local officials in Darfur blamed the incident on bandits looking for a cash ransom, according to the BBC. However, the potential political motivations for the violence against the five aid workers were lost on few.
The AP also reported that MSF has begun withdrawing its foreign staff from the Darfur region. Only two will remain in the volatile region where up to 300,000 Darfuris have already died.
UPDATE: This morning, AFP reported that the hostages have not yet been released but will be "very soon," according to an unnamed Sudanese official, who added that "they are in good shape." Late Friday, a spokesperson for MSF-Brussels told AFP that they are treating the news of the release cautiously: "For the moment MSF is not confirming the release… We have been informed by the Sudanese authorities. But we have not seen, not heard or had any direct contact with our colleagues."