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Six Bulgarians held by Sudan rebels

28 January 2015, 13:50

Sofia - Six Bulgarians working on contract for the UN were being held Wednesday by rebels in southern Sudan after their helicopter was forced to land, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said.

The UN-marked helicopter was flying from South Sudan to the Sudanese capital Khartoum for maintenance on Monday when it made an "unexpected landing" in the southern Sudanese region of South Kordofan, the WFP said.

The six were being held by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N), which has been fighting the Khartoum government since South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011, the Bulgarian foreign ministry said.

The reasons for the landing were unclear.

"We are working to try and make sure they are released as soon as possible. The indications we have had is that they are well. We are hopeful they will be released quite soon," WFP spokeswoman Jane Howard said.

She added that there was "no reason to think" that the six -- working for the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), a WFP-run operation providing air support to aid groups -- were kidnapped.

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