Thursday, May 24, 2012

Afghanistan: Five Aid Workers Kidnapped, Ransom Demand Likely

Five aid workers (two female physicians and three male co-workers) employed by the Swiss-based humanitarian group, Medair, were kidnapped  by gunmen while visiting a remote clinic in a mountainous area of Badakhshan province on Tuesday (May 22) when they were kidnapped. At the time, the aid workers were traveling by donkey, which further raises their vulnerability exposure.

COMMENT: Initial news reports suggest that the motivation for the abductions was money rather than political concessions. Rightly or wrongly, the victims had not informed Afghan security forces about their trip into the area. 

The good news is that afghan security forces have pinpointed the location where the five aid workers are being held and are apparently in negotiation with the kidnappers. 

The kidnapping of foreigners has become relatively common in parts of Afghanistan since U.S-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001, heralding a 10-year anti-insurgent war. In 2010, 10 foreign medical workers, including six Americans, were killed in Badakhshan in an attack blamed on insurgents. 

Medair is an emergency relief agency which has been active in Afghanistan since 1996. There it employs 15 expatriate and 175 local staff. 

This report will be updated as soon as new information becomes available.