Ashton Urges Freedom for Bulgarians Abducted in SudanDiplomacy | May 24, 2011, Tuesday // 09:31| views
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton gives a news conference at the end of a European foreign affairs ministers council meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium 23 May 2011. Photo by EPA/BGNES
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has called for the immediate release of the three Bulgarian air crew members working for the United Nations, who were abducted in Darfur region.
Ashton spoke after the meeting of the foreign ministers from European Union member states in Brussels on Monday.
The three, said to be a helicopter crew, were seized in January by armed men at an air strip in the town of Um Shalaya, in the largely lawless region of Darfur, Sudan.
Bulgaria's foreign ministry said the Bulgarians were pilots working for the private company Heli Air.
The kidnappers have not set any demands for the release of the Bulgarians yet, except for some food.
Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov confirmed this week that his department has launched a rescue operation with the cooperation of the UN and the Sudanese government.
"All efforts should aim the rapid completion of all procedures and internal commitments in Sudan to make possible the quick release of our countrymen," he added.
According to the foreign minister the three Bulgarians are in good condition and their lives are not in danger.
The identities of the abducted Bulgarians have not been revealed, but unconfirmed reports say one of them is the father of CSKA youth team player Bozhidar Chorbadjiisky.
Bandits and armed groups frequently kidnap U.N. and international aid workers in Darfur. The kidnappings have increased since March 2009, when the International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in the region.
Most of the hostages have been released unharmed.
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