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French ICRC aid worker kidnapped in Darfur

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Armed men kidnapped a French aid worker from the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sudan’s Darfur region on Thursday, the charity said.

Darfur has seen many kidnappings this year, mostly by young men demanding ransom money. Two aid workers from Irish agency Goal were released on Sunday after over 100 days in captivity. Two U.N.-African Union peacekeepers are still being held.

The ICRC named the kidnapped man as Gauthier Lefevre and said he was snatched in West Darfur state, north of el-Geneina and near the border with Chad. The agency said he was traveling in one of two clearly marked ICRC vehicles.

“The ICRC currently has no indication of who the abductors might be or of their motives,” it said in a statement.

Aid agencies say they have faced increased hostility in Darfur since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on war crimes charges in March.

The United Nations estimates some 300,000 people have died since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in 2003 accusing central government of neglect. A violent counter-insurgency drove more than 2 million people from their homes.

Heavy fighting has dwindled but sporadic clashes continue and the spread of arms has led to the collapse of law and order.

None of those responsible for the kidnappings of mostly international staff since March has been arrested.

Observers have expressed concern that if the kidnappers are not brought to justice the abductions will continue.

“The ICRC is calling for the rapid and unconditional release of its kidnapped staff member,” the charity said.

Separately, UN-African Union peacekeepers (UNAMID) reported two people were killed and six injured in tribal clashes in North Darfur this week.

“The immediate cause of the clash was attributed to fighting over access to water sources,” the peacekeeping force said in a statement.

Water scarcity in Darfur has long caused conflict between cattle-herding tribes and farmers.

Reporting by Opheera McDoom; Editing by Janet McBride