SUDAN (Country risk rating: High); 28 January; Foreign nationals detained in South Kordufan
According to reports released on 28 January, six Bulgarian nationals were detained in Sudan‘s South Kordufan state by rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Sudan (SPLM-North) on 26 January. The incident occurred near the state capital of Kadugli. The Bulgarian nationals, who were operating flight services for the United Nations (UN)’s World Food Programme (WFP), were reportedly taken by SPLM-North rebels after their helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing. The victims are unharmed. Spokespersons from the SPLM-North have stated that the victims have not been kidnapped; rather, they will be released once it has been established that they indeed work for the UN and are not affiliated with or working for the Sudanese government. Discussions to secure their release are currently underway. The incident underscores the high-risk operating environment facing both local and foreign nationals operating in Sudan. The threat of kidnapping is elevated in South Kordufan, where the country’s armed forces are engaged in an ongoing conflict with rebels aligned with the SPLM-North, which maintains a strong operational presence in the state. Although this incident has not been identified as a kidnapping, the SPLM-North demonstrated its willingness to use kidnapping as a tactic when the group took 29 Chinese nationals hostage in January 2012; the victims were working on road construction in the state. Due to the ongoing conflict in the state, further such incidents are expected to persist. Due to the heightened threats of conflict, kidnapping and banditry, clients are advised against all travel to a number of regions in Sudan, including South Kordufan. Persons currently in or intending to travel to these regions are advised to ensure that all movements are coordinated in the presence of a security escort.