Two International Red Cross staff members abducted by an armed group in February in Afghanistan have been set free, the Geneva-based organisation said on Tuesday. They had gone missing during a deadly attack in which six colleagues were shot dead.
“We are relieved and grateful that our colleagues are now back with us unharmed,” said the ICRC external linkhead of delegation in Afghanistan, Monica Zanarelli. “Their abduction and the killings of our six colleagues were emotional agony for all of us, especially for their families and friends.”
The two staff members were abducted by an armed group on February 8, 2017 while on their way to deliver assistance in Jawzan province along with six other ICRC personnel (in all, three drivers and five field officers).
Their relief convoy was attacked in an area south of the town of Shibergan and six staff members were shot and killed. It was suspected that Islamic State gunmen had carried out the attack. Numerous armed groups are present in northern Afghanistan.
The team had been transporting relief and livestock supplies to areas affected by heavy snow and avalanches in the north of the country.
On Tuesday, ICRC President Peter Maurer wrote on Twitter that he was relieved that the two colleagues had finally been released.
Zanarelli thanked local communities and the authorities for helping with their release.
“Our priority now is their well-being and being reunited with their families. We ask everyone to respect their and their families’ privacy at this time,” she said.
Kidnapping has been a major problem in Afghanistan for many years. Most victims are Afghans abducted for ransom but foreigners or Afghans working for foreign organisations have also been targeted.