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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Charity plea over kidnapped pair


Hundreds of thousands of people need aid in DarfurThe head of an Irish charity whose aid workers were kidnapped in Darfur has appealed for their safe return.

Goal chief executive John O’Shea said he was very concerned for Irish woman Sharon Commins, 32, from Dublin, and Ugandan colleague, Hilda Kuwuki, 42.

They were taken hostage by six armed men at a compound in the town of Kutum, northern Darfur, on Friday.

“We have had no contact with the kidnappers and we are very concerned for their safety,” Mr O’Shea said.

“We have no indication as to who did this or why and I would appeal directly to the kidnappers to immediately release both these women who are valued colleagues of ours.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Sharon and Hilda at this very difficult and distressing time.”

The Dubliner had been working in the region for a year.

Armed men forced the women into a vehicle along with a Sudanese security guard who was thrown from it as local police gave chase, Mr O’Shea added.

An official team headed by the Department of Foreign Affairs is travelling to Khartoum and Darfur to consult with the Sudanese authorities and international organisations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin called for the immediate release of the captives, and said the Irish government would do everything possible to bring that about.

“While the identity and motive of the abductors is not yet known, there have been two recent cases in which kidnapped aid workers were released unharmed after a few weeks in captivity.

“While I very much hope that Sharon and Hilda are freed immediately, my overriding concern is that they come to no harm,” he said.

Irish President Mary McAleese has expressed deep concern at the disappearance of Ms Commins.

“The President has conveyed to the Commins family her sincere hope that Sharon will be returned to safety as soon as possible, along with her colleague, Ms Hilda Kawuki,” a spokeswoman said.

It is the third time foreign aid workers have been kidnapped in Darfur since March.

The UN says 300,000 people have died and more than two million fled their homes since fighting erupted in 2003 between black-African rebel groups and the Khartoum government.

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