Sudanese rebel group releases 31 kidnapped Darfuris

CAIRO Sat Mar 30, 2013 5:34pm EDT

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Sudanese rebels have released 31 Darfuris who they had kidnapped a week ago on their way to a conference for people displaced by the region's decade-long war, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Saturday.

Conflict has raged in Darfur since 2003 when mainly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the Arab-led government, accusing it of politically and economically marginalizing the region.

Violence has subsided from its peak in 2003 and 2004, but a surge has forced more than 130,000 people to flee their homes since the start of the year, according to the United Nations.

Last week, the international peacekeeping mission UNAMID said an armed group had kidnapped 31 Darfuris who the peacekeepers had been escorting in three buses. The abductors took them to an unknown location.

On Saturday, the ICRC said a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), one of the main Darfur rebel groups, had released the men and handed them over to the Red Cross, according to a statement.

The SLA was not available for comment, and no more details were available about the incident that happened in a border area between Central Darfur State and South Darfur State.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes in Darfur.

Sudan refuses to recognize the court, which it says is biased against leaders who refuse to kowtow to Western powers.

In 2008, the United Nations said about 300,000 people may have died in Darfur's war, a figure some activists say is too low. The government has put the death toll at about 10,000.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing in Cairo and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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