KHARTOUM : Rebels in Sudan’s Darfur have freed two Ukrainians and a Sudanese held captive since early August after their helicopter made an emergency landing, their employer said on Wednesday.

Babikir Gasmelkhalig, owner of Dindir Aviation, told AFP the crew were released on Tuesday evening.

But he added that rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army’s Minni Minnawi faction were still holding their helicopter.Gasmelkhalig said the three men were fine and were at a hotel in the South Darfur state capital Nyala.

The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said earlier that the Mi-8 helicopter had been contracted by the mission to deliver supplies and was not carrying UN markings when it went down on August 3 southeast of Nyala.

Officials with the rebel group could not immediately comment and UNAMID had no information on the release.

“The Sudanese foreign ministry has just now confirmed that the crew of the Mi-8 helicopter, including two citizens of Ukraine, (...) were released last night,” a spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry told reporters in Kiev.

The spokesman added that the Ukrainian crew members were now staying in Nyala city under the protection of the Sudanese security forces.