Red Cross reveals staff abducted in Syria

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Red Cross reveals staff abducted in Syria

Deutsche Welle

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A New Zealand nurse and two Syrian drivers working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were abducted in Syria by the “Islamic State” (IS) group in 2013, the aid organization and New Zealand’s government said Monday.

Information about the kidnapping of nurse Louisa Akavi and drivers Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes had not been previously disclosed and media outlets avoided reporting on the three aid workers’ fate out of concern it would endanger their safety.

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Breaking the silence, the Red Cross appealed for information about the three employees who were abducted in Idlib, northwestern Syria, on October 13, 2013 when their humanitarian convoy was stopped by armed men. Four others in the convoy were released the following day.

The ICRC said they have received credible information that 62-year-old Akavi is still alive.

“The last such information dates back as recently as December 2018,” the ICRC said. “Unfortunately and despite all our efforts, we don’t know what’s happened to Alaa and Nabil ever since 2013.”

New Zealand deploys special forces

New Zealand‘s government said that a special forces team has been based in Iraq and crossed into Syria to look for Akavi.

“This has involved members of the NZDF (New Zealand Defense Forces), drawn from the Special Operations Force, and personnel have visited Syria from time to time as required,” Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said.

“This non-combat team was specifically focused on locating Louisa and identifying opportunities to recover her,” he said.

Renewed urgency to find Akavi

The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces last month announced they had pushed IS out of their last bastion in eastern Syria and detained thousands of IS fighters. Having lost territory, the terrorist group has turned into a guerrilla force.

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