Sudan released four foreigners who were captured last month in the disputed Heglig region, it was reported on Sunday.
The four included a Norwegian, a Briton, a South African, and a South Sudanese. Sudan had accused them of spying for the government of South Sudan. The claim was rejected by the South, which identified the group as a team working to remove mines along the border.
Sudanese defense minster, Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein, told media, “We release them to President Mbeki,” referring to former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who headed the negotiation seeking the release of the four.
“We launched an investigation and had great doubts about their intentions because they were arrested in a war zone,” Hussein told reporters, according to Reuters. “They were working for one of the two sides.”
“The president of the Republic decided to release them as a gesture of goodwill,” Hussein added.
After a ceremony in Khartoum, the four got into a convoy that belonged to Mbeki and left, AFP reported.
Mbeki is in Khartoum attempting to broker a peace deal between Sudan and South Sudan following recent clashes along the disputed border. The bout of fighting started in April when South Sudanese forces occupied the oil-producing region of Heglig.
Sudan has been accused over the past several weeks of launching air strikes on South Sudan.