Abducted Red Cross workers face uncertainty

Three employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross, including a Swiss man, kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen are in good condition, but the demands of their captors remain unknown, an ICRC spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

But a tribal dignitary who is involved in negotiations to secure the hostages' release  told AFP later on Tuesday that the kidnappers were demanding that the trial of fellow tribesman Abdelbaset al-Markashi be moved to their hometown Jaar from the main southern city of Aden.

However, "negotiations have failed," Abdullah al-Marakishi said.

For the moment the Red Cross workers appear to be alright.

"Our colleagues told us that they are fine," ICRC Middle East spokeswoman Dibeh Fakhr told AFP, confirming the three employees were being held by a group in southern Yemen since Monday.
She withheld the names and nationalities of the captives, but local sources 
have told AFP a Swiss and Kenyan staffer as well as a Yemeni interpreter were seized by armed tribesmen in the city of Jaar, in Abyan province.
Kidnappers from Al-Marakisha tribe stopped the group's car and abducted the 
male Swiss staffer, witnesses said.
A tribal source said the Kenyan and the Yemeni interpreter insisted on 
staying with their colleague, even though the kidnappers told them they could go.
Their Yemeni driver fled.

The trio have been taken to a mountainous area north of Jaar, the tribal 
source said, requesting anonymity.
Fakhr said the motives for the kidnapping remain unknown, and the ICRC has 
not received any demands from the captors, while "negotiations are ongoing" to secure their release.
Last week, armed men from the same tribe briefly held two Indian ICRC 
employees in Jaar, before pro-government militia interceded for their release.
Gunmen from the same tribe are still holding two Egyptian technicians they 
seized from a cement factory in Abyan province on May 6th.
Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen over the past decade and a 
half, almost all of who have been freed unharmed.
Most kidnappings of foreigners are carried out by members of Yemen's 
powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government.

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South Sudan civil war victims face famine

Tens of thousands of people forced to flee violence in South Sudan could go hungry, with fighting interrupting the planting season and cutting off supply chains, the Geneva-based Red Cross warned Monday.

South Sudan civil war victims face famine
Photo: Julius Kusuma

Civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, when president Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.
Most recently civilians have been uprooted from the opposition-held town of Leer, in an oil-rich part of Unity State, and from Kodok in Upper Nile State, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
It cautioned that hostilities could sever escape routes, and said it feared civilians could suffer from a lack of food and health care while on the run.
In addition, the displacement from Leer, including of many people already uprooted by fighting in Unity state a year ago, “comes just as the country's crucial planting period is under way,” ICRC said in a statement.
“The upheaval will no doubt negatively impact residents' ability to plant food that would be used to feed their families next harvest season,” it said.
The fighting had also forced the ICRC to halt its regular activities and reduce its staff in Leer, where the organization has one of its largest food
distributions in the world.
“Prolonged displacement exposes people to suffering. We fear that the situation of some 100,000 people in Leer, who are now hiding in unimaginably difficult conditions, will worsen day by day,” said Franz Rauchenstein, who heads the ICRC's delegation in South Sudan.
“The ICRC must be able to access these communities. We call upon all involved in the fighting to facilitate the lifesaving work of Red Cross workers,” he added.
The fighting in the world's newest country, which only gained independence from Sudan in 2011, has been characterized by ethnically-driven massacres, rape and attacks on civilians and medical facilities.
The violence, which has escalated into an ethnic conflict involving multiple armed groups, has killed tens of thousands of people.
ICRC said Monday that intensified shelling in the area of Kodok town was endangering the lives of patients at a hospital it supports there, and said
that although the hospital remained open, it had moved its nearby operational base to Oriny.
It reminded all parties involved in the fighting that civilians and medical facilities cannot be targeted, according to international law.
“The more fighting in South Sudan expands, the more . . . the vulnerable will suffer, whether from the risk of sexual violence, a lack of food and medicine or forced conscription of the young,” ICRC said, stressing that using children under the age of 15 as soldiers is a war crime.