Martin holds Sudan kidnap talks


Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has held talks with officials in Khartoum today as efforts continue to secure the release of an Irish aid worker who was kidnapped with a Ugandan colleague in Darfur two months ago.

Sharon Commins (32) – from Clontarf, Dublin – and Hilda Kawuki (42) were seized in Kutum, a town in north Darfur, on July 3rd when up to eight armed men entered their compound.

The two women are in "excellent health", Sudan's Foreign Ministry said after the talks in Khartoum in which Mr Martin discussed efforts to release the two women with top Sudanese officials, including Foreign Minister Deng Alor.

"The two kidnapped workers from Goal are in a stable and excellent health condition," Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Moawya Othman Khaled said today. "The government has enough information about the captors, and we are now looking for the best way for securing the release."

The Sudanese government will not pay ransom under any condition, for any case of kidnappings, Mr Khaled said.

Asked about the government's position, Mr Martin said Ireland understands "fully where the government of Sudan is coming from in relation to the issue".

Abdul Bagi al-Jailani, the Sudanese humanitarian affairs minister who has been overseeing negotiations to secure the women’s release, described the eight kidnappers as members of a nomadic tribe in north Darfur seeking a ransom.

He said that Sudanese authorities were continuing to liaise with tribal elders to free the women. Officials stopped talking directly to the kidnappers some time ago.

Yesterday, Irish aid agency Goal said it welcomed the Minister's decision to travel to Khartoum in an effort to secure the release of the women.

Goal’s CEO John O’Shea said: “Just by going to the region, Minister Martin has clearly indicated the concern and seriousness with which the Irish Government and the Irish people are taking the kidnapping of our colleagues.

"We believe that the best chance of a satisfactory result being achieved rests with the Irish Government impressing upon their Sudanese counterparts the absolute seriousness of this situation”.

Mr Martin arrived in Sudan last night.