Armed men seized two vehicles belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sudan's Darfur region but harmed none of the nine-member aid team who later walked to safety, Sudanese and ICRC officials said Wednesday. The Sudanese military issued a statement blaming rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army - one of two groups battling the government since 2003 - for the latest incident that occurred Tuesday.
The ICRC the two vehicles were stolen by unidentified armed men who stopped the convoy on a road between the West Darfur towns of Selia and Gos Mino.
ICRC spokesman in Sudan, Paul Conneally, said the nine workers were left unharmed on the side of the road and walked 30 minutes to the nearest village before contacting their headquarters for help. The United Nations and other international bodies have been complaining about the recent increase in insecurity and violence in Darfur, which is hindering the distribution of aid to millions of people displaced by the conflict.
The Sudanese government has been accused of supporting Arab nomads known as the Janjaweed, who have been blamed for a campaign of killings, rape and arson since rebels rose up against the military in 2003. Sudanese authorities deny backing the Janjaweed.
The United Nations estimates that 180,000 people have died, mainly through famine and disease. Several million more have either fled into neighboring Chad or been displaced inside Sudan. A.M.