Sudan releases four foreigners arrested in contested area


South Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers on April 23, 2012 at a base near Bentiu.


Hannah McNeish

Sudan has released four foreigners arrested by Sudanese forces last month near its tense border with South Sudan, officials say.

The four men – from the UK, Norway, South Africa and South Sudan – were detained on April 28 on suspicion of aiding the South and held in the disputed border area, where clashes between Sudan and South Sudan have broken out in recent months, according to Reuters.

Speaking at a ceremony Sunday at Sudan’s military headquarters in the capital Khartoum, Sudanese Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein said the men had been handed over to former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating between Sudan and South Sudan, according to the Agence France Presse. The four then got into a vehicle which part of Mbeki’s motorcade.

The names of the four have not yet been released, but reports say they are de-mining specialists and were collecting war debris in the Heglig oilfield, which South Sudanese forces attacked and occupied for ten days last month, according to the BBC. A United Nations spokesman in South Sudan was quoted at the time of their arrest as saying that a staff member was among the group.

More from GlobalPost: Sudan and South Sudan: Border war still threatens

Tensions in the area are still running high, and Sudan is accused of carrying out several bombings inside South Sudanese territory this week, charges it denies. Mbeki is currently trying to bring both sides back to the negotiating table.

South Sudan secured its independence from the North last July following a 2005 deal that ended a bloody, two-decades-long civil war in which about 1.5 million people died.

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