LONDON, Oct 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Eight armed men abducted an aid worker in South Sudan as he tried to board a plane to leave the conflict-hit Upper Nile region after receiving threats, a UN agency said on Friday.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said it had sent security staff to accompany the South Sudanese man to Malakal airport, where he was snatched at gunpoint by plain-clothed men while waiting in line to board a flight to the capital Juba.
The town of Malakal, which lies on the fringes of Upper Nile state's oil fields, has been hit by heavy fighting since the conflict in South Sudan, the world's newest nation, broke out in December between troops backing President Salva Kiir and soldiers loyal to his sacked deputy, Riek Machar.
George Fominyen, WFP spokesman for South Sudan, said the authorities should do everything in their power to make sure the man was released quickly and unharmed.
"Violence towards aid workers is a concern for everyone in the humanitarian community," Fominyen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Juba. "All parties involved in the conflict should respect humanitarian workers and their assistance to people in need."
In August, six aid workers in South Sudan were attacked and killed. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan blamed the killings on a militia known as the Mabanese Defence Forces in Upper Nile State's Maban County, which has been attacking Nuer civilians after clashes with deserting soldiers.
The number of attacks on aid workers worldwide soared last year to the highest level on record, according to the Humanitarian Outcomes 2014 report published in August.
In all, 155 aid workers were killed, 171 wounded and 134 kidnapped in 2013 - a rise of 66 percent rise in the number of victims from 2012.
The report said three quarters of the attacks took place in Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan, Pakistan and Sudan. (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Ros Rissell)