A major Darfur rebel group released 60 captured government soldiers and police on Saturday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said, a move that could help clear a logjam in troubled peace talks. The insurgent Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) handed the captives to Red Cross officers who passed them on to government officials on Saturday afternoon, the humanitarian group said.
“JEM has released 55 Sudan Armed Forces soldiers and five policemen,” Red Cross spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh told Reuters. Talks between JEM and Sudan’s government, which started in Doha in February, have stalled over the timing of confidence building measures, including the release of each other’s prisoners and a ceasefire.
JEM has said it wants Khartoum to release captured rebel fighters before any ceasefire is agreed, while Khartoum says it needs an end to hostilities ahead of other moves. The rebel group told Reuters the release took place close to the north Darfur settlement of Kutum, adding it was ready to free more captives if the government reciprocated by releasing imprisoned JEM fighters.
“We are fulfilling the goodwill agreements we signed in Doha,” senior JEM official Ahmed Tugud said. “We still have many government captives and are willing to release them if similar steps are taken by the other side.” No one was immediately available from Sudan’s government to comment on the release.
SOURCED FROM REUTERS