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Aid worker "pardoned", but not yet freed

Map of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The "pardon" of a kidnapped French aid worker by an Ethiopian rebel group on Tuesday has not yet brought about his release, Action Contre la Faim (ACF) and the French authorities confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday.

The rebel Ethiopian group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), based in the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia, said on Tuesday it had "pardoned" Eric Couly and urged French diplomats to collect him from the Ogaden region because it would "neither hand him over to Ethiopia nor send him to another place." Couly, a water engineer with ACF, was kidnapped in the Somali Region on 3 April during an evaluation of pastoralists' water

A spokesperson at the French embassy in Nairobi told IRIN on Wednesday that it had communicated the ONLF statement to France and was "awaiting instructions from Paris". "We have the press statement; we don't know if it's true or not," she said. ACF in Addis Ababa said the rebels' communique sounded like "pretty good news" but that there was cross-checking to be done to verify the details and "he is not released yet".

The ONLF statement said it had "pardoned" Couly despite his "misdeeds" in allegedly "transporting food, medicine and logistics to the Ethiopian troops". The ONLF's political secretary, Abdi Sirad Dollal, said Couly had been sentenced to 18 months in jail but later pardoned by ONLF president Mohamed Omar Hassan, AFP reported.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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