Aid Workers With Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse Kidnapped In South Sudan

Rebels in South Sudan have abducted eight aid workers with Franklin Graham’s Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse organization, the news agency Reuters reported Monday.

The kidnappers are demanding food as ransom, according to Reuters.

“The rebels attacked and abducted eight local staff from Samaritan's Purse, and they are being held to ransom,” Brigadier Gen. Lul Ruai Koang of the South Sudan military told Reuters. “They have demanded that the organization takes aid to them.”

The workers were kidnapped from a village near Mayiandit, about 420 miles northeast of South Sudan's capital city of Juba.

Samaritan’s Purse confirmed the kidnappings in a media statement. The international Christian humanitarian organization said it has contacted the staffers and they have not been harmed.

The rebels deny the aid workers have been kidnapped, The Associated Press reported.

In late February, South Sudan’s government and UN agencies said Mayiandit and other areas were facing severe famine and deteriorating security conditions, The Christian Broadcasting Network reported. On Feb. 20, authorities in Mayiandit told 28 aid workers to leave after skirmishes north of town.

“We call on all the parties involved to immediately provide complete and unfettered humanitarian access in order to meet the needs of a starving population in order to save lives,” Samaritan’s Purse said in a statement, according to CBN.

The United Nations reports more than 7 million people in South Sudan need aid, up by 1.4 million from last year, CBN reported.

Roughly three million people have been displaced by fighting between government and rebel forces. An estimated 200,000 people have fled the country since the beginning of the year, according to CBN.

“The famine in South Sudan is man-made,” Stephen O'Brien, a United Nation’s spokesman, told CBN. “Parties to the conflict are parties to the famine, as are those not intervening to make the violence stop.”

Samaritan’s Purse has been working in South Sudan for many years. Oil-rich South Sudan is the world’s newest country.

“The nation has the potential to be considered the bread basket of East Africa, yet is now experiencing significant food shortages because of civil strife,” Samaritan’s Purse says on its website.

Violence and insecurity “have made it nearly impossible for civilians to plant and harvest crops,” according to Samaritan’s Purse.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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