Kidnappers release four of seven aid workers in Syria: Red Cross

Published Monday, October 14, 2013

Three of the six Red Cross aid workers abducted by gunmen in northwest Syria on Sunday have been released, along with a volunteer from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday.

"Good news! We confirm that the Syrian Red Crescent volunteer and three out of six ICRC colleagues have been released safe and sound," Robert Mardini, head of ICRC operations for the Near and Middle East, said in a tweet.

ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said the four were released in the Idlib region, but gave no details on their identities or circumstances of their liberation. The independent aid agency was awaiting information on the remaining three, he said.

Unidentified gunmen abducted six Red Cross aid workers and a local Red Crescent volunteer in northwest Syria on Sunday, as they were returning to Damascus after a four-day mission to deliver medical supplies in Idlib, the ICRC said.

The aid group earlier in the day vowed not to stop work in Syria despite the weekend kidnapping.

"We are completely committed to supporting the Syrian population in this difficult moment," Watson told Swiss public radio prior to the news of the release of the four aid workers.

"We don't have any intention of stopping our activities in Syria, but of course this situation makes us reflect and take a close look at our operations because in the end, we will not be able to work and help the Syrian population without having security for our personnel," he said.

"We are worried that these types of incidents will prevent us from having as large of an access in the future and from carrying out our humanitarian work," he added.

Last year, the ICRC halted operations in parts of Pakistan following the kidnapping and murder of a British employee there.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Kidnapping has become an increasing problem in Syria, with journalists and aid workers frequently targeted in rebel-held parts of the country, largely in the north.

The ICRC has some 30 expatriate staff in Syria, along with 120 local employees.

They work hand in hand with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, one of the few organizations able to deliver aid nationwide.

(Reuters, AFP)

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