International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), on Thursday, said it had facilitated the release of 23 people previously held by a rebel group in South Sudan.

ICRC said in a statement issued in Juba that it received a request from the National Salvation Front (NAS), an armed group active in the Equatorial region, to facilitate the release of 23 people, including 11 children.

Among the freed children is a four-year-old child of a late volunteer of the UN migration agency, International Organization for Migration (IOM), who was killed during fighting in October.

According to ICRC Head of Delegation in South Sudan, James Reynolds, the operation took place on Dec. 31, in collaboration with all relevant authorities, allowing families to be reunited with their loved ones at a time of celebration.

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“Before bringing them to Juba, the ICRC, acting as a neutral intermediary, ensured that the released persons were handed over voluntarily and that their health condition allowed them to travel safely,” Reynolds said.

South Sudan’s 2018 peace agreement entrusts the ICRC to facilitate the release of prisoners of war.

The agency said it was the fourth time it facilitated the release of persons held in captivity since the signing of the peace agreement in Sept. 2018.