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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

South Sudan rebels release two Kenyan pilots 

JUBA, (Xinhua) -- South Sudan rebels have freed two Kenyan pilots following payment of about 108,000 U.S. dollars to the family of a civilian killed when their plane crashed in Greater Akobo region in late January, the rebels’ spokesman told Xinhua on Tuesday.

Lam Paul Gabriel, the deputy rebel spokesman, said by phone that the deal was sealed late Monday after the team from Kenya met with the local authorities in Akobo region.

“The two Kenyan pilots have been released after the compensation fee of 108,000 dollars agreed by the two sides was honored,” Lam said.

He disclosed the family of the deceased and the owners of the properties finally accepted to set free the two pilots.

“It was not ransom from the rebels as purported instead the rebel leaders in the region only provided security and facilitated the negotiation process,” he added.

Earlier this year, Cessna Caravan with registration number 5y-FDC, crashed in the area and killed one civilian and destroyed property.

Later on, the Sudan people’s Liberation Army- in Opposition (SPLA-IO) demanded a sum of 200,000 dollars as compensation for the death of a woman and 11 cows in the accident.

Lam said the two Kenyan pilots identified as Captain Pius Frank Njoroge and co-pilot Kennedy Shamalla were handed to government officials on Monday.

Last week, Kenyan Pilots Association threatened to suspend commercial and chartered flights to war-torn South Sudan in an effort to seek release of their detained colleagues in Akobo.

 
NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenyan co-pilot Kennedy Shamalla (L) with his wife Beth Muthoni and their four-year-old son reunite after the co-pilot’s release from South Sudan, in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, Feb. 20, 2018. Kenysan pilot Frank Njoroge and co-pilot Kennedy Shamalla had been held hostage by South Sudanese rebels after their plane crash landed at the Akobo rebel controlled region in South Sudan on Jan. 7, 2018. The two were released on Tuesday after the Kenyan government and the rebels agreed on the amount of money to be paid as part of compensation for the loss of life and property that occurred in Akobo.  XINHUA PHOTO: FRED MUTUNE

Meanwhile, the two Kenyan pilots - Captain Frank Njoroge and Co-pilot Kennedy Shamalla - landed in Nairobi on Tuesday afternoon following month-long negotiations between South Sudan and Kenyan government officials.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma who received the two pilots termed the abduction of the two pilots as unfortunate, saying that the two pilots were illegally detained.

“The pilots of the two families have suffered emotional and psychological distress during the period in which they were abducted. We condemn the capture and detention of the pilots in the strongest terms possible,” said Juma who received the two at the airport.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting between mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

           

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