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May 20, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Four United Nations (UN) deminers arrested last month by the Sudanese army along the country’s tense borders with neighbouring South Sudan have been freed and handed over to African Union’s (AU) mediator Thabo Mbeki.
The four men: a Briton, a Norwegian, a South African and a South Sudanese were captured on 28 April by Sudanese forces in the oil region of Heglig around which Sudan and South Sudan fought a brief war last month.
Sudan accused the men of working for South Sudan. They were later flown to Khartoum where they were detained at a military facility and underwent investigation on charges of entering the country illegally.
The defense minister of Sudan, Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, announced on Sunday that they had released the men to African Union mediator and former South African President Thabo Mbeki who has been in the country since Thursday discussing resumption of diplomatic talks between Khartoum and Juba.
Mbeki personally witnessed the release of the captives and told them that he had asked Sudan’s president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir to free them.
John Sorbo, the released Norwegian, spoke on behalf of his colleagues, thanking the Sudanese government and appreciating Mbeki’s efforts. “We are so happy now that we are going," he added.
After leaving their detention with Mbeki, the men were later turned to their respective embassies.