2 Russian Pilots Kidnapped in Sudan

2 Russian Pilots Kidnapped in Sudan2 Russian Pilots Kidnapped in Sudan

Two Russians working for UTair airline have been kidnapped in Sudan’s Darfur region, the Russian airline and the Russian Embassy in Khartoum said on Tuesday.

UTair, which has a contract for work with the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), said two of its employees had been seized in the town of Zalingei on January 29.

“A UNAMID minibus was blocked by six cars. The passengers were forced to get off the minibus at gunpoint and led off in an unknown direction,” the airline said in a statement, adding that the hostage-takers had not yet made any demands, Reuters said in a report.

A Russian embassy spokesman in Khartoum confirmed the men had been captured but gave few details. Egyptian state television reported the two were pilots but the company did not confirm this.

A UTair helicopter with the UN mission in the neighboring South Sudan (UNMISS) was shot down last year and three of its crew were killed. The airline operates domestic and international passenger flights, helicopter services and charter flights.

The UN mission was set up in 2007 to protect civilians and secure aid to Darfur, which has been wracked by conflict since 2003 when ethnic insurgents rebelled against the government complaining of marginalization.

Relations between Khartoum and UNAMID have been strained since the mission tried to investigate reports that Sudanese soldiers raped 200 women in the village of Tabit in October.