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New Zealand looking for a hostage nurse in Syria

On October 13, 2013, Ms. Akavi and her two Syrian colleagues were traveling in convoy to Idleb when armed men stopped their vehicles. Seven people were then kidnapped.

Posted today at 06:22

Time to Reading 3 min.

Nurse Red Cross Louisa Akavi.
Nurse Red Cross Louisa Akavi. HANDOUT / REUTERS

New Zealand announced on Monday (April 15th) that its special forces had carried out missions to Syria to search for New Zealand nurse Louisa Akavi, whose Red Cross revealed the kidnapping in 2013.

The details of M's abductionme Akavi and two Syrian drivers had been kept secret for more than five years before the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) decided Sunday to break the silence and appeal to find out what happened to his employees.

The organization revealed Sunday that it had known from the outset that the 62-year-old nurse was in the hands of the Islamic State group and said the latest information "Reliable" indicated that she was still alive at the end of 2018.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said on Monday that an operation involving a team based in Iraq was underway to locate it.

"It involved members of the NZDF (New Zealand Defense Forces) from the Special Operations Forces, and its members traveled to Syria from time to time when necessary", he said. "This non-combat team has been especially focused on locating Louisa and identifying opportunities to recover her. "The efforts to locate and locate Louisa are ongoing, and there are many operational or intelligence issues that the government is not going to comment on"added Peters.

"Calvary for families"

October 13, 2013, Mme Akavi and his two Syrian colleagues, Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes, were traveling in a convoy to Idleb in the north-west where they were to supply medical equipment when armed men stopped their vehicles. Seven people were kidnapped, four of whom were released the following day.

Shortly after their abduction, the ICRC said the humanitarian convoy was recognizable with its red cross on a white background. The organization never managed to get information on the fate of the two Syrian drivers. "These last five and a half years have been a nightmare for the families of our three colleagues. Louisa has the true stature of the compassionate humanitarian. Also very committed, Alaa and Nabil were real pillars of our relief activities "said ICRC Director of Operations Dominik Stillhart. "We call anyone who has information about them to come forward. If our colleagues are still in captivity, we ask for their immediate and unconditional release ", he said in a statement.

Louisa Akavi is a nurse "Experienced, dedicated and recognized for her strength of character"who had completed 17 field missions for the New Zealand Red Cross and the ICRC before the kidnapping, according to the organization.

She knew the risks

Mr. Peters thanked the media for keeping silent. "In these situations, the priority must always be the security of the hostage and we were clearly told that any advertising would increase the risk for Louisa", he said. "The government is very grateful for the cooperation during these years of the media that took the decision not to publish (…) and we thank them for this approach in principle. "

Tuaine Robati, a spokesperson for the Akavi family, said the nurse was fully aware of the risks in Syria. "She had a difficult time before, but she continued because she likes it", he said. "Louisa is a nurse and a very experienced humanitarian who knew the risks. "

The war in Syria that began in 2011 after the crackdown on pro-democracy protests left more than 370,000 dead and millions displaced and refugees.

The military operation conducted since September by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by an international coalition led by Washington, led to the announcement on March 23 of the fall of the last IS slump.

The New York Times reports that the Red Cross has reason to believe that the nurse is alive, because at least two people said they saw her in December in a clinic Soussa, one of the last bastions of the EI.

Witnesses said she had seen her perform care in ISIS-controlled clinics, suggesting that she was no longer confined to a cell.

The ICRC, which in Syria has 98 expatriates and 580 national employees, hopes «This period will open new opportunities to know more» on the location and state of health of Mme Akavi.

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