Machar, South Sudan's Exiled VP Orders Foreign Oil-workers Released

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Three foreign oil workers who'd been captured near oil fields in South Sudan arrived safely in Khartoum Friday after they were ordered released Tuesday by Riek Machar, South Sudan's exiled Vice President.

Ethiopia and Sudan coordinated the evacuations.

Released were: Pakistani national, Ayaz Hussein Jamali, an engineer; and, Indian nationals, Ambrose Edwards and Muthu Vijaya Boopathy. The oil workers had been in the captivity of Machar's Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army -In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO).

Jamali worked for Juba based the Dar Petroleum Operating Co. (DPOC) which includes CNPC, a Malaysian company and others; Boopathy worked for China Petroleum; and, Edwards worked for Juba-based Sudd Services and Investment Co.

"The aforementioned three oil workers, who were captured from the Adar oilfields, are hereby released," reads a letter dated and signed March 28, by Machar. The letter is addressed to Dak Duop Bichok, of the SPLM/A-IO's National Committee for Energy and Mining.

"Contact in Khartoum, the embassies of Republics of India and Pakistan to inform them accordingly of the release of the oil workers and brief them on the position of SPLM/SPLA (IO) on peace in South Sudan," the letter says.

Machar fled to South Africa after South Sudan President Salva Kiir reportedly tried to kill him in July, 2016, causing the fragile agreement that had bound the men in a Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) to collapse. The New York Times reported on January 23, and on March 4 that Kiir's army and police launched a scorched earth operation, including mass rapes and massacres, against communities perceived to be hostile.

Machar's aides claim Kiir's government is using proceeds from oil sales to buy arms that fuel the kind of massacres reported in The New York Times.

On Thursday the Donald Trump administration, in a move hailed by SPLM/SPLA (IO) signed on to a statement with the U.K. and Norway --the so-called Troika countries that have supported the peace efforts led by regional African group IGAD and the AU-- endorsing the treaty signed by Kiir and Machar that led to the creation of TGoNU.

SPLM/SPLA (IO) claim that after Kirr's attack on his VP in July the Obama administration had tilted towards him and even sought a U.N. travel ban against Machar.

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