Fighters of the Justice and Equality Movement in al-Fasher, Northern Darfur
Rebels in Sudan's Darfur region said on Monday they had freed all 49 international peacekeepers captured one day earlier but that they continued to hold three Sudanese.
"We released the peacekeepers because our investigation confirmed that they came to our area without knowing it is under our control," Gibril Adam Bilal, spokesman for the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), told AFP.
He said the movement still held the three Sudanese -- initially suspected to be government security agents -- while it verified what they were doing with the peacekeepers.
"If the investigation confirms that they are not security members we will release them immediately," he said.
A UNAMID public information officer said the three civilians work for the peacekeeping mission, not the government.
"They are not spies," she said, declining to say what had happened to them.
She gave the number of peacekeepers as 55 and said they are able to move but are "working on releasing" the civilians who were with them.
The troops had not been taken hostage, she said.
Bilal said earlier the UN troops had been captured while the rebels probed why they had entered a JEM-controlled area without permission and without informing the insurgents.
He said the peacekeepers and their equipment were safe. Forty-six of them were from Senegal, including two officers, while there was one each from Yemen, Ghana and Rwanda.
Senegalese troops operate primarily in Darfur's northwest near the Chad border.
UNAMID told the Sudan Armed Forces that the captives include 55 Senegalese soldiers and three African police, travelling in a convoy east of the West Darfur state capital of El Geneina, said army spokesman, Sawarmi Khaled Saad.
"They were surrounded by troops from the Justice and Equality Movement in 20 vehicles, who asked them to give up their weapons," he said.
The JEM, a key rebel group from Darfur, announced in January that it had chosen Gibril Ibrahim, a one-time university professor, to head the movement after his brother Khalil, its former leader, was killed.
The new chief denied JEM had fractured and said the group would follow the course set by his brother to seek "democratic" change.