Oxfam worker reaches Chad capital after kidnap release

16th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A European aid worker with British charity Oxfam arrived in the Chad capital Wednesday after being freed from kidnappers who captured him in the country's east nine days earlier.

"I was not hurt, I was well treated. I am relieved but very tired," Hubert Ballaman told reporters after flying into N'djamena following his release on Tuesday near the border with Sudan.

Ballaman was kidnapped on June 6 in Abeche, the main city in eastern Chad where dozens of non-government organisations and UN agencies work with tens of thousands of displaced people and refugees from the brutal conflict in Darfur.

A Congolese colleague and a Chadian driver who were captured with him were later released.

Ballaman, who said he has British and Swiss nationality, was brought to N'djamena in a plane charterd by the government.

Oxfam thanked authorities in the African country for helping secure his freedom.

"Oxfam would like to thank all parties involved, especially the government of Chad, and members of the international community for their efforts to achieve the safe release of our colleague," its British arm said.

"We would like to commend the courage of Hubert and his family during their ordeal," it said in a statement, calling for their privacy to be respected "so that they may have time to enjoy their reunion."

Chad's Minister of the Interior and Security Ahmat Mahamat Bachir announced the aid worker's release on Tuesday. Prime Minister Emmanuel Nadingar identified him as Hubert Blama, saying he was a British national.

Nadingar said he had been picked up at Sarne, 45 kilometres (28 miles) from Birak in the east of the country, near the border with Sudan, and the abductors were in the hands of security forces.

The security forces had intercepted the kidnappers travelling in their own vehicle and that of their hostage, the prime minister said.

Abeche is a key garrison town for the Chadian military and police. It also hosts a French military base and a camp for the UN peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT).

MINURCAT will leave Chad this year, with most of the 3,300 troops expected out by October. Chadian authorities claim that the pullout will not affect security but Amnesty International and others disagree.

© 2010 AFP

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