Northern Ireland man Patrick Noonan released after three month Sudan kidnap ordeal
A NORTHERN Ireland aid worker has been released almost three months after being kidnapped by an armed gang in Sudan.
Patrick Noonan, 48, was snatched in March while working for the World Food Programme (WFP) in the South Darfur region of the African country.
He was released after 86 days in captivity and was "looking forward to seeing his family", the WFP said.
Father-of-two Mr Noonan, from Northern Ireland, had spent two years working as a logistician for the aid agency in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.
Since 2009, 40 humanitarian workers have been abducted in Darfur, including Mr Noonan and six air crew working with the UN Humanitarian Air Service which is managed by WFP.
The aid agency's executive director, Ertharin Cousin, said: "All WFP staff are celebrating the release of Patrick, today.
"He went to Darfur with the aim of helping vulnerable people and his kidnapping was a great strain on his family, friends and colleagues. We are thankful for his safe release."
British Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham said: "Patrick's family and friends must be delighted, having endured the ordeal of his captivity with great strength and dignity."
Minister for Africa Mr Bellingham praised the authorities in Sudan, especially South Darfur's governor Hamad Ismail Hamad, for their work in securing Mr Noonan's release.
Ibrahim Gambari, joint special representative for the African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur, called on the authorities to find the kidnappers.
In a statement issued through the WFP, he said: "The international community in Sudan and Governor Hamad Ismail Hamad worked closely together to secure the release of Mr Noonan, whose job was to bring desperately needed humanitarian aid to Darfur's most vulnerable people.
"I am aware of Governor Hamad's personal commitment and the efforts of South Darfur's security bodies that enabled the safe release of Mr Noonan.
"It is now crucial that the government of Sudan authorities pursue the hostage-takers and bring them to justice."
According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr Noonan has been active in the international development community for several years.
Since July last year he has been WFP/Logistics Co-ordination Unit head of office for the South Darfur Sudan World Food Programme.
Before that he spent 16 months as a non-food items co-ordinator at the WFP/LCU.
From October 2007 to September 2009 he was logistics manager at the Danish Demining Group in Iraq. From January 2005 to September 2007 he was the lower south Iraq and Kuwait liaison officer at the UN Office for Project Services Iraq Programme.