April 15, 2019

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Red Cross makes appeal for staff abducted in Syria

Nabil Bakdounes Image copyright
Red Cross

Image caption

Nabil Bakdounes was abducted in 2013

The Red Cross is looking for details about three staff members abducted in Syria five-and-a-half years in the past.

In its first detailed assertion on the incident, it says Louisa Akavi, Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes have been seized in October 2013 whereas travelling to Idlib province in north-western Syria.

Ms Akavi was held by the Islamic State group and there may be proof she was alive in late 2018, the Red Cross says.

The destiny of Mr Rajab and Mr Bakdounes shouldn’t be recognized.

Ms Akavi, a citizen of New Zealand, is a 62-year-old nurse who has carried out 17 discipline missions. Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes, each Syrian nationals, labored as drivers who delivered humanitarian help in the nation.

New Zealand says {that a} particular forces staff has been making an attempt to find Ms Akavi.

“This has involved members of the NZDF [New Zealand Defence Force] drawn from the Special Operations Force, and personnel have visited Syria from time to time as required,” stated Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

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

Image copyright
Red Cross

Image caption

Louisa Akavi has been held by the Islamic State group

“The past five and a half years have been an extremely difficult time for the families of our three abducted colleagues. Louisa is a true and compassionate humanitarian. Alaa and Nabil were committed colleagues and an integral part of our aid deliveries,” stated Dominik Stillhart, ICRC’s director of operations.

“We call on anyone with information to please come forward. If our colleagues are still being held, we call for their immediate and unconditional release.”

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There are elevated issues for Ms Akavi’s security following the autumn of the final territory held by Islamic State (IS) close to the Iraqi border final month.

Ms Akavi spoke of her work in a 2010 interview for a New Zealand newspaper. “It does become a little bit hard, but it is the small things. It’s working with the national staff who do the best they can,” she stated.

“We are speaking out today to publicly honour and acknowledge Louisa’s, Alaa’s, and Nabil’s hardship and suffering. We also want our three colleagues to know that we’ve always continued to search for them and we are still trying our hardest to find them. We are looking forward to the day we can see them again,” Mr Stillhart stated.

A veteran of battle zones

Imogen Foulkes, BBC News Geneva

Louisa Akavi is a veteran of battle zones who has labored in Bosnia, Somalia, and Afghanistan. She survived the 1996 assault on the Red Cross compound in Chechnya, in which six colleagues have been killed.

In 1999 she was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal for companies to nursing.

The ICRC, which labored tirelessly behind the scenes to search out her and the 2 Syrian staff members abducted together with her, is aware of that she hung out in Raqqa, and that she was alive on the finish of final yr.

Refugees fleeing the final strongholds of Islamic State report seeing her, nonetheless working as a nurse. But no-one can know what she skilled, and what her psychological state is now.

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