Sudan: Relief International team car-jacked in North Darfur

In Tawilla, North Darfur at 1:30 pm on April 25, 2007, three armed men hijacked a vehicle carrying a team of seven Relief International (RI) staff members. The attackers wore civilian clothing and carried two automatic rifles and one pistol. The Relief International team of Sudanese nationals-driver, six volunteers, and an RI-Ministry of Health team leader-were conducting a mission for National Immunization Days in Argo IDP camp located in Tawilla town.

The hijackers abducted all staff with the vehicle and drove westward. Two team members escaped during the course of a three hour period. The remaining team members were released and managed to return to the RI Tawilla Clinic by 4:40 pm. Two team members had been beaten. Another team member had been threatened at gunpoint by one hijacker demanding a satellite phone (the staff member did not possess one). The hijacker harassed the team member by shooting bullets over his head. The vehicle remains at large.

The RI Tawilla Clinic remains open at this time with support from local staff members, who have chosen to remain so that the most vulnerable are not left without critical health services. Relief International is presently reassessing its intervention in Tawilla with staff safety and community needs central to the strategy.

RI has sequestered its immunization team at offices in El Fasher and temporarily suspended the immunization campaign. This is the fourth attack on the RI Tawilla team since 2005. This region southwest of El Fasher is a site of ongoing violence between local militias and government troops, causing massive displacements of families into and out of the region. The conflict affected population in Tawilla and its three IDP camps is estimated at 160,000 people. RI has operated a primary health care clinic in Tawilla since early 2005, which provides essential services in safe motherhood for women of childbearing age, child health, immunization, and critical nutrition care for malnourished children. The RI Tawilla Clinic remains the only international humanitarian activity operational in the region.

About Relief International

RI is a humanitarian non-profit agency that provides emergency relief, rehabilitation, and development assistance and program services to vulnerable communities worldwide. RI focuses on bridging emergency relief to development through transitional, cross-sectoral and integrated programs. RI is solely dedicated to reducing human suffering and is non-political and non-sectarian in its mission. RI has branch offices in the UK, Japan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Niger, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Territories and other countries.


Michelle Minc
Acting Communications Officer
Tel: +1.310.478.1200; Fax: +1.310.478.1212