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By Opheera McDoom
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Two kidnapped aid workers from the Irish agency Goal were released on Sunday in Sudan's troubled Darfur region after more than 100 days in captivity, a government official said.
"They were released earlier this morning," Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs, Abdel Baqi al-Jailani, told Reuters.
Sharon Commins, from Dublin, and Hilda Kawuki, from Uganda, were seized in their north Darfur compound by a group of armed men in July.
Micheal Martin, Ireland's foreign minister, praised the women for their "courage and resilience" and thanked the Sudanese government for its role in their release.
Darfur has seen a wave of kidnappings in the past year, and aid workers working in the hostile region have had to step up security. Mostly Darfur rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglect.
A brutal counter-insurgency campaign drove more than 2 million people from their homes and sparked a humanitarian crisis which the United Nations says has claimed 300,000 lives.
Sudanese officials had been negotiating with the kidnappers through tribal elders. Jailani's ministry said no ransom had been paid and the two women were on their way to North Darfur's capital el-Fasher.
John O'Shea, chief executive officer of Goal, said he had spoken with Commins and she sounded "wonderful."
"Hilda and herself have suffered a traumatic ordeal -- but happily both have had the strength and courage to come through it," he said in a statement.
"A sense of overwhelming relief and joy has descended upon all of us."
The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said they had received the women in their office in Kutum, but added they were not involved in the negotiations.
"A doctor looked at them and they seemed in good health," said ICRC spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh.
Aid groups say they have faced increased hostility and threats since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in March for Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to face charges that he masterminded war crimes in Darfur.
Darfur's joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) said two of its personnel kidnapped almost two months ago were still in captivity.
The male and female civilian staff members were taken from a compound in Zalingei, West Darfur state.
(Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin)

Reuters