Rebel forces in southern Sudan detained an Anglican bishop and a missionary on charges of “treason and insurrection,” according to a U.S.-based evangelical Protestant group.

Rev. Peter Hammond, director of Frontline Fellowship, and Bishop Bullen Dolli of the Episcopal Church of Sudan were arrested Saturday in Yei Province by the Public Security Office of the SPLM, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, said In Touch Ministries International of Tempe, Arizona, a sister organization to Frontline Fellowship.

Frontline Fellowship announced today that the two men have been released. On Saturday they were dragged out of a church seminar at which they were teaching and interrogated for three hours by military intelligence of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army, according to Frontline Fellowship.

Hammond’s affiliate called the charges “trumped-up.”

“Such an accusation needs only to be stated to be dismissed as ridiculous,” said Bill Bathman, president of In Touch Ministries International, or ITMI.

Kristi Messick, ITMI administrator of African affairs, told WorldNetDaily she believes the arrests were made by junior officers of the SPLA, against the wishes of senior officials.

In January, a “renegade element” of the SPLA arrested ITMI missionary Tim Keller of Arizona, Messick said. He was released in 24 hours after being marched 20 miles by gunpoint.

Hammond and Dolli might have been detained by a similar element, Messick suspects.

“My opinion is that this must have to do with money,” she said.

Messick explained that Frontline Fellowship, which has helped train chaplains for the SPLA for the past seven years, has been viewed by the rebel army as a friend.

The SPLA is fighting for autonomy from Khartoum’s militant Islamic regime, which has declared a jihad against the mostly Christian and animist south. Since 1983 about 2 million people have died from the fighting and war-related famine.

The brick cathedral in Lui where Bishop Dolli ministered was bombed into rubble last year by Khartoum forces. His brother was taken from home by government agents who tied a rope around his neck and dragged him from a military jeep for three miles. With skin ripped to shreds, agents poured gasoline over him and burned him alive. Dolli now cares for his brother’s four children.

Hammond has helped bring attention to the Khartoum regime’s “holy war” against the south, which has been characterized as genocide. Last year the government issued a personal threat, warning that he should expect to be bombed and shot when in the country.

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