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Report: Militants in South Darfur abduct 3 Russian pilots

From Amir Ahmed, CNN
  • The pilots are abducted while walking in a neighborhood
  • Three other pilots were kidnapped in the same region
  • Darfur has been beset by conflict

(CNN) -- Militants in South Darfur have abducted three Russian pilots who work for the United Nations World Food Programme, Sudan's state-run Ashorooq Network said Thursday.

The pilots were walking in a neighborhood in the city of Nyala when eight militants in a car abducted them Thursday, the news outlet said.

In August, three Russian pilots working for a Sudanese aviation company were abducted in the same region.

Darfur has been beset by conflict since 2003 after rebels began an uprising against the Sudanese government.

To counter the rebels, Arab militias with ties to the Sudanese government went from village to village in Darfur, killing, torturing and raping residents there, according to the United Nations, Western governments and human rights organizations. The militias targeted civilian members of tribes from which the rebels drew strength.

The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Darfur, and 2.5 million have fled their homes. Sudan denies the death toll is that high.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accusing him of war crimes and crimes against humanity -- charges he denies.