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Latvia: Pilots kidnapped in Sudan are unhurt

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Aid organization speaks to pilots, kidnappers
  • Pilots have been missing since being abducted November 5 while walking
  • Darfur has been beset by conflict

(CNN) -- U.N. World Food Programme officials have spoken with Sudanese militants who abducted three Latvian pilots employed by the group, the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

The officials also spoke with the pilots, who reported they were unhurt and not in need of medical assistance, the ministry said.

The pilots, who were abducted November 5 in the South Darfur city of Nyala, were initially reported to be Russian by Sudan's state-run news network, but that proved incorrect.

The pilots were grabbed by eight militants in a car as they walked in a Nyala neighborhood, Ashorooq Network reported.

Representatives of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Counterterrorism Center of the Security Police are in Sudan to help secure the pilots' release. Their families were notified of the phone conversation with World Food Programme officials, the ministry said.

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.