The Observer Kampala
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A suspected rebel group in South Sudan has asked for ransom before they can release Ugandans captured during ambushes along the Nimule-Juba road.

Gen Makur Maruol, the inspector general of the South Sudan national police services says they have received information that the abductors are calling relatives of the abducted to demand for money.

« I have learnt that some of the relatives are receiving calls from [the abductors] for a ransom. We’ll make all the available means to secure the release of the two. It is a joint venture. If the Uganda police has any information [they should] give us the telephone numbers of the those who are communicating from South Sudan so we try through our intelligence to track those people and find them », Maruol said.

A rebel group believed to be loyal to the former first vice president Riek Machar has reportedly captured a total of 41 Ugandans since fresh fighting broke out earlier this year. They were picked from Kampala bound buses and along border districts.

These include the 23 who were abducted along the Nimule-Juba highway in May and eight timber dealers who were abducted in July, from Lubone sub-county, Magwi county; five kilometers out of Lamwo district in northern Uganda.

While the eight were later released after their relatives paid a ransom of Shs 3m each, another four businessmen were captured during the same month. The businessmen who are still missing; were captured by suspected militias in Pajok trading centre, Magwi county in Eastern Equatoria State of South Sudan.

Out of those abducted in May, seven escaped and were found by South Sudanese police while another six were abducted in the month of August. Records by the South Sudan police indicate that up to 26 Ugandans are still held by the rebels.

Gen Maruol says that despite intelligence information that the relatives of the victims are receiving calls for ransom, only two have since provided information to the South Sudanese police. South Sudan police now wants Uganda police to help link them to relatives of all the victims so they can help track the kidnappers.

He was speaking during a meeting between the police chiefs from both countries held at Serena hotel in Kampala over the weekend. Two task teams have now been set up to track down the abductees as well as ensure safety of all other Ugandans using the highways from Uganda borders to Juba.

Uganda inspector general of police (IGP) Gen Kale Kayihura says these task teams comprised of both Ugandan and South Sudanese police officers will begin tracing for the missing Ugandans with immediate effect.

« We have set up two joint teams. One of those among other tasks is to begin looking for the abducted Ugandans. A specific task which we have given ourselves because of the capabilities between ourselves and South Sudan and of course the sister agencies. It is something we have made a priority. It is a task that why we have put this task team », said Kayihura.

Meanwhile, the South Sudan police has asked Uganda to hand over supporters of former vice president Riek Machar suspected to be rebels. The supporters who are believed to have entered the country as refugees in the last two years were labelled as rebels by South Sudan.

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