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Nuns Freed By Government Troops In The Subdan

July 25, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two American nuns walked 27 miles through the Sudanese countryside after being freed by rebels, a spokeswoman for the Maryknoll religious order said Friday.

Sister Mary Ellen Mertens said in a telephone interview from Maryknoll, N.Y., that Sister Sean Underwood and Sister Nancy Lyons had walked to the Sudanese city of Juba after being set free.

Sister Mertens said the Maryknolls were notified Friday by the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, that the nuns were safe. She said details were sketchy.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Army claimed in a clandestine broadcast monitored in Nairobi on Tuesday that they rescued the nuns after they became caught in crossfire during a battle near Juba between government troops and the rebels.

Sister Lyons, a registered nurse, is a Maryknoll nun who has worked in Sudan since 1983, Sister Mertens said. Sister Underwood, whose order is the Medical Missionaries of Mary, works with the Maryknoll nuns in Juba.

Joan Underwood Brooks said she was notified of her sister’s release by the State Department. Mrs. Brooks said she was told her 43-year-old sister was rescued by government troops on Thursday.

Sister Underwood, a health care worker, was in a car that was caught in crossfire between rebels and government troops on Monday, said Mrs. Brooks.

″She was able to get out of the situation and get home OK, but when her friend went to check on her later on, he found the house ransacked and she and her friends were missing,″ said Mrs. Brooks from Voorheesville, N.Y.

Mrs. Brooks said the regional director of Sister Underwood’s order contacted her parents in Portsmouth, N.H., on Tuesday. Her father had just undergone a cancer operation, she said.

″I was in shock,″ Mrs. Brooks said. ″My father had just made it through surgery, he was OK, and we got a call that my sister was being held hostage.″ She said her father wasn’t told of the situation.

Sister Underwood went to the Sudan in June after spending four years in the United States. She had worked previously as a pilot and missionary in Kenya, flying doctors out of Nairobi to desert clinics.

Sister Lyons was born in Scotland and is now an American citizen. She has a brother in Walnut Creek, Calif., which she considers her home in the United States, Sister Mertens said.

The rebels have been fighting the government since 1983.

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