SPLM-N in talks with UN for chopper crew's release

KHARTOUM – The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) rebel group said Wednesday that it was negotiating with the UN for the release of a helicopter crew that it captured earlier this week.

SPLM-N spokesman Mubarak Ardol told The Anadolu Agency that the helicopter belonged to the UN World Food Program (WFP), adding that its six-member crew was all of Bulgarian nationality.

On Monday, the SPLM-N said it had forced down a helicopter that had been flying over "military operations" being conducted in areas under the group's control.

The group did not, however, specify the exact day on which the incident had occurred.

Since 2011, the SPLM-N has been fighting Sudanese government forces in the Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces near the border with South Sudan.

Outlawed by Khartoum, the SPLM-N consists mainly of fighters who sided with the south during Sudan's decades-long civil war.

African Union-sponsored talks between the rebel group and Khartoum, the last round of which took place in Addis Ababa last month, have so far failed to produce any breakthroughs.

Over 1.2 million people have been affected by the ongoing conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, according to recent UN figures.

The WFP is among 21 UN-affiliated humanitarian organizations operating in Sudan, where regime forces are fighting four different rebel groups in various parts of the fractious country.

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