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German aid workers kidnapped in Darfur

CAIRO - Gunmen raided a humanitarian agency's office in south Darfur and kidnapped two German aid workers, a spokesman for the international peacekeeping mission said yesterday.

Kidnappings of foreign aid workers have been on the rise in Darfur since 2009, following an international arrest warrant against Sudan's president for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

The German Foreign Ministry said two men working for the Technisches Hilfswerk, a state agency doing development work, have been missing since Tuesday. The men are 34 and 52, foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke told reporters in Berlin.

Chris Cycmanick, spokesman for the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, said seven gunmen, four carrying automatic rifles, entered the residence of Technisches Hilfswerk group in Nyala, the capital of south Darfur. A Sudanese security guard who was briefly abducted was being questioned by the Sudanese authorities.

Kidnappers mostly have demanded ransom, but some have made political statements. Four UNAMID peacekeepers were abducted in April just outside Nyala for 16 days, during Sudan's first nationwide multiparty elections. The kidnappers, members of a small rebel group, said they sought to prove that security in Darfur was not good enough to hold the vote. The elections were widely criticized by Sudanese opposition and rebel groups.

UN officials say at least 300,000 people have lost their lives from violence, disease and displacement, and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes.

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