South Sudan army releases six aid workers accused of arms smuggling

South Sudan’s military has released six international aid workers who were arrested and detained in January, accused of smuggling arms, according to the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders.

“We are relieved that our colleagues, who were working hard to bring health care to people in need, have now been released and can return to their families,” said Brice de le Vingne, director of operations for the organization said in a statement to AP.

The aid workers were arrested on Jan. 4 in the Yei area on suspicion of transferring weapons to the opposition, charges denied by the Switzerland-based organization, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres.

South Sudan’s information minister however maintained that the charges against the aid workers are valid.

“They were caught red-handed carrying ammunition and arms,” Michael Makuei told AP by phone on Monday. He added the aid workers left Yei without permission and an investigation is ongoing.

Two of the international workers were released on Jan. 27, and the four others were released on March 31, said the organization.

Humanitarian organizations operating in South Sudan have expressed fears over increasing hostile conditions in the country.

In March, seven aid workers were killed in the country after they were ambushed and killed in government territory.

South Sudan has been at war since December 2013, with the violence killing at least 50,000 people, with at least 79 of those being aid workers.

The UN condemned the recent deaths of the aid workers, urging the warring factions to down their tools to ensure peace in the country.

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