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Sudan: second Indian escapes

Of the four Indian men kidnapped in the oil-rich Heglig area of Sudan on May 13, two have managed to escape, one of whom, Surjeet Singh, ran away from his abductors on Saturday morning, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

delhi Updated: Jun 07, 2008 23:42 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury

The near complete collapse of law and order in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, till recently reputed to be the safest capital in Africa, has ensured that “diplomatic channels” are not working in the country because the government is not in charge.

Of the four Indian men kidnapped in the oil-rich Heglig area of Sudan on May 13, two have managed to escape, one of whom, Surjeet Singh, ran away from his abductors on Saturday morning.

An employee of Petro Energy Contracting Services, an Indian company registered in Khartoum, Singh made his way back to the company’s base camp this morning, Indian Ambassador to Sudan Deepak Vohra told HT. Another Indian nationals, Mohamed Aseeb Shaikh, also escaped from captivity and returned to the company’s base camp (around 70 km from where they were held) on Wednesday.

Despite claims that the four Indians were “mistakenly” captured and that the government knew where the hostages were being held, and that security forces had surrounded the area, the government and the company has not been able to free the men.

It is unclear how the escape of the two men will impact the fate of the two remaining hostages, PK Abhilash and Biplab Biswas. It is likely to further endanger their lives. But it is clear that Sudan’s deteriorating internal security situation has these Indians caught in the crossfire.

While the kidnappers are locals and not from Darfur, an indication of how law and order has collapsed in Sudan is the fact that almost 1,000 Darfur rebels in some 130 pick-up trucks managed to enter Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city last month.

The bloody clashes that erupted in the Sudanese capital last weekend raised questions about how the rebels were able to travel hundreds of kilometers across the desert (from Sudan’s border with Chad) and infiltrate the capital despite the government’s claim of advance knowledge.

If a military regime is unable to protect its own capital, the fate of those in the distant oil-rich South of the country will hang in the balance. Sudan, after South Africa, has the largest armed forces in Africa, actively aided by China.