GENEVA (Reuters) - South Sudanese rebels have released 13 contractors a week after kidnapping them and seizing the fuel barge they were taking to a U.N. base in South Sudan, the United Nations said.
The U.N. mission in the world’s youngest country said it sent helicopters to pick up the South Sudanese workers on Sunday, and recovered the barge - but not the 55,000 liters of fuel it was carrying.
“This (release) was the result of a week-long dialogue... with members of the opposition at all levels,” Shantal Persaud, a spokeswoman for the U.N. mission, said on Monday.
Eighteen Bangladeshi U.N. peacekeepers, who were also captured by the rebel SPLA-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) in oil-producing Upper Nile State last week, were freed on Thursday.
A political row between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar erupted into violence in late 2013. More than 10,000 people have been killed in fighting between the army and Machar’s SPLM-IO and other, often ethnic clashes.
Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal in August, but since then both sides have accused the other of attacks.
About 13,000 U.N. peacekeepers are still sheltering more than 100,000 South Sudanese at camps throughout the landlocked country which declared independence from Sudan in 2011.
The U.N. Special Representative to South Sudan, Ellen Loej, said all parties should do nothing to stop U.N. personnel and assets moving around the country.
“A similar incident should not and hopefully will not happen again,” she said in a statement.
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Andrew Heavens