ICRC staff kidnapped in Afghanistan

ICRC staff were involved in the release of South Korean hostages in Afghanistan in August Keystone

Four members of the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been seized southwest of Kabul in Afghanistan.

This content was published on September 27, 2007 - 13:27

Local police said Taliban militants had abducted two international and two Afghan ICRC employees on Wednesday and a search had been launched for the missing group.

The ICRC confirmed on Thursday that four of its staff members, including two expatriates, had been kidnapped by the "armed opposition" in Afghanistan.

Earlier, a spokesman for Taliban insurgents said they had kidnapped the four men southwest of the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday, but would release them soon.

"We confirm that four ICRC staff members were seized by an armed opposition group on their way back to the delegation in Kabul in the district of Wardak, southwest of Kabul," ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad said in Geneva.

The expatriate staff were from Myanmar and Macedonia, while the other two were Afghan national employees, she said.

The men were being held in an "undisclosed location" and the ICRC was in contact with "all parties concerned with the aim to resolve the current situation as swiftly as possible", she said.

"The ICRC is not in a position to say more at this stage in order not to jeopardise the whole process," Haddad said. "We are concerned about their fate."

She declined to comment on whether any ransom or other demands had been received, citing the neutral agency's confidential dialogue with all parties to an armed conflict.

The aid workers were trying to help secure the release of a German held by criminals in July and later handed over to Taliban militias.

Spate of abductions

The police chief of Wardak province said the Red Cross staff were kidnapped by Taliban militants on Wednesday.

He said the staff had declined an offer of a police escort.

In one of a spate of recent abductions, Taliban rebels kidnapped two German engineers in Wardak in July and killed one after he suffered a heart attack. The other German is still being held.

In August the ICRC helped facilitate talks between the Taliban and South Korean officials that led to the release of 21 Korean hostages after more than a month of captivity.

The Swiss-run organisation deploys 60 expatriates and some 1,300 Afghan nationals in Afghanistan, one of its biggest operations worldwide.

Its officials visit several thousand detainees in Afghanistan each year to ensure that they are being treated humanely in accordance with international law.

swissinfo with agencies

ICRC in Afghanistan

The ICRC's main delegation is in Kabul, with sub-delegations in Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad.

It has 1,179 staff, including 62 expatriates, in the country.

Between January and June this year ICRC protection teams visited 68 places of detention, which were holding a total of 9,356 detainees. They provided assistance to 154 released detainees to travel home.

Since 1988 the ICRC has been involved in orthopaedic and rehabilitation assistance to disabled people, from landmine victims to those with motor impairment from other causes.

Around 78,200 patients (including more than 32,300 amputees) have been registered and assisted.

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