Red Cross staff abducted in Afghanistan released

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Two Red Cross workers were freed in Afghanistan Tuesday, seven months after they were abducted during an attack on their convoy that killed six colleagues, the international charity said.

The Afghan aid workers came under fire in the northern province of Jowzjan on February 8 while en route to a remote snowbound area to deliver relief supplies. Six employees were killed on the spot, many of them shot from close range, in one of the worst attacks on the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“We are relieved and grateful that our colleagues are now back with us unharmed,” Monica Zanarelli, ICRC chief in Afghanistan, said in a statement. “Their abduction and the killings of our six colleagues were emotional agony for all of us, especially for their families and friends.”

The ICRC would not comment on the identity of the abductors or the details of the employees’ release. Spokesman Thomas Glass said in a statement the two men were “doing well”. “They have been through quite an ordeal. Despite it all they are in good spirits,” he said.

No militant group claimed responsibility for the abduction or killings, but Jowzjan police had blamed local Islamic State jihadists. The Taliban, the largest militant group in Afghanistan, had distanced itself from the attack.

The incident came after a Spanish employee of the ICRC was abducted in December when workers from the charity were traveling between the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and the neighboring volatile Taliban hotbed of Kunduz.
He was released several weeks later.

The ICRC put its nationwide operations on hold after the February attack but Glass said most of the charity’s programs had been restarted.

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