Page last updated at 07:51 GMT, Monday, 6 July 2009 08:51 UK

Irish bid to find kidnapped women

Sharon Commins
Sharon Commins is an aid worker in Darfur

A high-level meeting is to take place in Sudan over the kidnap of an Irish aid worker.

Sharon Commins, 32, from Dublin and her Ugandan colleague Hilda Kuwuki, 42, were captured by a gang of armed men near Kutum, northern Darfur, on Friday.

An Irish government delegation including trained hostage negotiators, led by the Ambassador to Egypt Gerard Corr, flew to Khartoum on Sunday.

Ms Commins works for the charity, Goal, which has 1,600 people in Sudan.

Goal chief executive John O'Shea said he hoped the meeting would clarify who was holding her.

Mr O'Shea said he told the investigation team that six men armed with AK-47 assault rifles also took mobile phones and a computer belonging to the aid agency.

"That suggests to us - but I can only say suggests - that they might be interested in having our contact details," he said.

"It gives us a little hope that they will make contact. Because obviously if we are not able to find them, we would like them to find us."

Some members of the Irish team are holding talks with embassies and authorities in the city while others have travelled on to Darfur.

The Irish Ambassador to Uganda, Kevin Kelly, is also in talks with the government.

A security guard, who worked along with Ms Commins and Ms Kuwuki for Goal and was thrown from the captors' car as they fled with the two women, has been interviewed.

Goal, has pulled its remaining workers from the Darfur region until Ms Commins and Ms Kuwuki are found.

Ms Kuwuki is an expert in nutrition and Ms Commins, who has been in Sudan a year-and-a-half as project manager and report writer, is a former press officer for the humanitarian relief group in Dublin.

She obtained a Masters in international relations from Dublin City University (DCU).

Officials from Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs are also in touch with their UN and British counterparts.

Goal has been working in Sudan for the past 24 years and runs clinics, schools and feeding centres open to all. The area where the group operates has been peaceful. A total of 13 other aid agencies were evicted from Darfur several months ago but Goal had remained unaffected.

It is the third kidnapping of foreign humanitarian workers since March.

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