3 Red Cross workers, Red Crescent volunteer set free in Syria

3 Red Cross workers, Red Crescent volunteer set free in Syria
Kidnappers have released three Red Cross workers and a Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer who were abducted in Syria during an attack on their convoy on Sunday, says ICRC. Three other members of the group remain captive.

Six ICRC staff members and a volunteer were seized by unidentified armed men near Sareqeb in Idlib province, in north-western Syria.

The aid workers had travelled to the region on October 10 to assess the medical situation in local health structures and to deliver medical supplies to Sarmin and Idlib city, ICRC said. The convoy – clearly marked with the Red Cross symbol – was on its way back to Damascus when it was attacked.

On Monday, Red Cross spokesman Sean Maguire confirmed to RT that four of the group’s members were freed.

The information we get from them will hopefully assist us in persuading the abductors to free the remaining three colleagues who are still being held,” he said. However, Maguire did not share any details regarding who were the abductors and why they seized the aid workers.

So far, no group has assumed responsibility for the abduction. Meanwhile, the incident took place on territory controlled by Syrian opposition forces, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on October 12, 2013 shows Syrian women and children waiting before being evacuated by Syria's Red Crescent from a Damascus suburb that has been under siege by the Syrian army for months. (AFP Photo)

Moscow condemned the attack and urged those responsible for the kidnapping to release the Red Cross staffers immediately without any preconditions.

We hope that foreign forces, which have influence upon the armed formations in the province of Idlib, will have necessary influence on the opposition,” the ministry said in a statement.

Russia also praised the Red Cross’ decision to continue its mission in the war-torn Syria despite such abductions – which are becoming increasingly common.

The ICRC says they need to weigh risks carefully and to remain extremely vigilant as to safety of their personnel.

We’ve been able to cross frontlines throughout the conflict in Syria to bring assistance into areas that are not being held by the government. And it’s clear that there are massive needs there for food, for shelter material, for water supplies and for medical care,” the ICRC spokesperson said.

So, we are going to continue to try - as far as security and safety allows – to help the people in need in those areas.

According to Maguire, there has been a misuse of the right to humanitarian assistance both by the Syrian government and opposition. 

We’ve seen on all sides of the conflict that medical aid has been denied to people who need it – the sick and the wounded. There are areas being besieged by both the government and opposition forces. So, we’re seeing the sort of denial of the right to the humanitarian aid which we would be expecting to see observed,” he told RT.

On Sunday, about 1,500 civilians – most of them women and children - were evacuated from a hotspot suburb of Damascus, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said. Those evacuated were safely relocated into shelters in the countryside near the Syrian capital.

According to the UN, two million refugees, more than half of them children, have fled Syria since the beginning of the war in March 2011.