Eight aid workers with Christian humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse who were reportedly abducted and held captive by rebels in South Sudan have been released, the Charlotte Observer reported.
“Samaritan’s Purse is thankful to God for the safe release of our South Sudanese national staff, who had been detained by armed personnel in the Mayendit area of South Sudan,” read a statement from the Christian organization. “They were all released Tuesday afternoon local time.”
The kidnappers, who captured the aid workers from an area near Mayiandit, were said to be demanding food for ransom, reflecting the ongoing famine and the associated struggles people currently face in the region. The eight workers were South Sudanese nationals, not U.S. citizens.
“The rebels attacked and abducted eight local staff from Samaritan’s Purse and they are being held to ransom,” Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang reportedly told the press before the aid workers’ release. “They have demanded that the organization takes aid to them.” Food, according to Reuters, is looking “increasingly likely to become a weapon of war.”
But Samaritan’s Purse seemingly pushed back against the ransom claim.
“There was no ransom request, and they are on the way to a safe location at this time,” Tuesday’s statement read. “We are grateful for the World Food Programme’s support in helping us relocate our staff.”
Hundreds of thousands of people are in desperate need of food and resources in South Sudan, as the crisis there continues to worsen, with violence and insecurity make it difficult for residents there to plant and harvest food for the masses, CBN News noted.
South Sudan, which became an independent country back in 2011, has faced severe internal violence since 2013, when President Salva Kirr fired Vice President Riek Machar; civil war followed, forcing millions to flee their homes, according to Reuters. You can read more about the ethnic strife and claims of an attempted coup that followed here.
That situation has exacerbated problems for the newfound nation. The Samaritan’s Purse website recently described the dire state of affairs in South Sudan, noting that the United Nations and the government of South Sudan jointly announced that certain areas of the country face famine — and millions are food insecure, with figures likely to worsen from 4.9 million to 5.5 million later this year.
“Local markets in Mayendit are empty and closed, food production has been greatly limited, and malnutrition among women and children continues to increase,” reads the Samaritan’s Purse article. “Typical livestock, such as chickens and goats, can no longer be found, as they’ve been used as a source of food for the community over the years of suffering.”
The remaining cattle are apparently too thin and weak to produce milk needed to sustain the people.
Samaritan’s Purse has been working in Mayendit since 2014 in an effort to distribute food there to those in need.
(H/T: CBN News)
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