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BANDITS DEMAND CASH TO FREE AID WORKER SHARON; Sudanese open talks with kidnap gun gang.

Byline: SARAH BARDON

ARMED bandits have demanded a ransom for the release of kidnapped Irish aid worker Sharon Commins.

The Goal volunteer, who was snatched with her colleague Hilda Kuwuki in Darfur, Sudan, managed to phone officials yesterday to say she was in "good health".

Sudan's minister for humanitarian affairs Abdel Baqi al-Jailani said negotiations have opened with the bandits.

He added: "We now know their names and their tribes. This is nothing to do with politics. We hope we will have some good news in a few days."

Sudanese Ambassador Omer Mohamed Ahmed Siddig said his government was hopeful the pair would be released soon.

He added: "He [Mr al-Jailani] told me that they were able to establish contact with their offices in El Fasher and in Kutum.

"He confirmed the two ladies, according to their telephone contacts, are safe and sound.

"What is important for us now is the safe release of Sharon and Hilda. It is our hope in the coming few days that we'll be able to secure the release of Sharon and her colleague.

"We had experiences before, so we know exactly what we are doing and we know how to reach our ultimate objective of securing the safe release of the two ladies."

Overseas Development Minister Peter Power said: "Our hope and our wish is that she is safe and unharmed.

"We are working closely with the Sudanese Government, but beyond that I can't say anything because obviously these matters are sensitive, but we are working tirelessly to ensure a successful outcome.

"The environment in which Sharon and her colleague were working is a particularly difficult.

"Naturally in these circumstances we have to be concerned for anybody working in these conditions."

Goal chief executive John O'Shea said he was making no comment on the reported negotiations.

Sharon, 32, from Clontarf, and 42-year-old Hilda were captured by armed men at a compound in the town of Kutum, Northern Darfur, last Friday.

Goal chief executive John O'Shea said he was making no comment on the reported negotiations.

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SNATCHED Goal aid worker Sharon
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 10, 2009
Words:348
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