A New Zealand nurse and two Syrian drivers working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were abducted in Syria by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in 2013, the aid organisation and New Zealand’s government said Monday, according to Reuters.
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.
The Red Cross appealed for information about the three employees who were abducted in Idlib, northwestern Syria, on 13 October 2013 when their humanitarian convoy was stopped by armed men. Four other people also abducted from the convoy were released the following day.
“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 since 2013.”
New Zealand 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.