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Defence ministry dismisses claims SA troops held hostage in Sudan

The defence ministry has strongly denied reports that South African troops were held hostage in Sudan.

FILE: The defence ministry has dismissed reports that South African peacekeepers were held hostage in Sudan to secure the safe passage of president Omar al-Bashir. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

PRETORIA - The defence ministry has dismissed reports that South African peacekeepers were held hostage in Sudan to secure the safe passage of president Omar al-Bashir who was facing possible arrest on International Criminal Court (ICC) charges.

The High Court in Pretoria ordered government to detain al-Bashir on Monday but it emerged that he was already on a plane home.

Netwerk 24 reported on Tuesday Sudanese troops had surrounded three bases in Darfur and only pulled back after their president was safely en route to Khartoum.

The defence ministry's Siphiwe Dlamini has come out strongly to deny reports that South African troops were held hostage in Sudan.

"I would like to assure the nation that our troops who are under the United Nations are safe and are continuing their work. There is absolutely no truth in these reports."

Dlamini says the South African commander met with his Sudanese counterpart yesterday, which confirmed strong relations in the region.

Earlier, the South African National Defence Union (Sandu) said it had received reports from several different sources that an incident had in fact taken place.

Sandu's Pikkie Greeff said he had no reason to doubt the reports because they came from the soldiers.

REPORTS: ZUMA GAVE ASSURANCE AL-BASHIR WOULD NOT BE ARRESTED IN SA

It's being reported that President Jacob Zuma gave the African Union (AU) Summit assurances al-Bashir would not be arrested.

The City Press reported that AU Chair Robert Mugabe made the bombshell announcement at the closing of the gathering in Sandton late on Monday night.

However, the Presidency has refused to comment on the claim that Zuma made this assurance.

There was shock and confusion across the country on Monday as al-Bashir's plane took off from the Waterkloof Air Force Base, in direct contravention of an interdict.

Government has committed to abiding by the High Court order to explain how he was allowed to leave.

Government said in a statement that it would enquire about the circumstances under which al-Bashir left the country and submit an affidavit to the High Court in Pretoria outlining the details.

It said it would however await written reasons for the court's ruling, which is expected next Monday.