Ethiopia: 19 Kidnapped Children Released From South Sudan
Nineteen Ethiopian children who were kidnapped in last month’s attack in Gambella by South Sudanese gunmen have been released.
More than 200 people were killed and an estimated 125 children kidnapped in the attack targeting ethnic Nuers in Ethiopia’s western Gambella region. The Ethiopian News Agency reports the first group of children have been released after the South Sudanese government entered into negotiations with the kidnappers.
Negotiations to continue
The negotiations between South Sudan’s government and the kidnappers will continue until all the children have been freed, according to the Ethiopian publication.
“The children must be rescued and be reunited with their families. The cattle that was taken should also be handed over to the right owners,” South Sudan’s ambassador to Ethiopia, James Pitia Morgan, is quoted as saying.
The attack was carried out by armed members of the South Sudanese Murle community, which has no affiliation with the country’s government. The group has previously been accused of crossing the border into Ethiopia to steal livestock and children to raise as their own. However, the April 15 attack was on an entirely different scale.
Children released without fighting
The first group of 19 children was released without fighting after negotiations, raising hopes that all those kidnapped could be safely released without violence. South Sudan has made a clear effort to oversee the return of the kidnapped children and do what it can to resolve a tough diplomatic situation.
Ethiopian troops entered Somalia last month to initiate a search for the children and the country’s government hasn’t ruled out military action if needed.
“We hope the children will be brought back safely and without a need for a fight, but Ethiopian forces will continue to make every effort including taking military action if necessary,” spokesman Getachew Reda said.