Saturday, June 2, 2012

Afghanistan: British, US Forces Safely Rescue Four Aid Workers

British and US special operations elements rescued four aid workers, including a British citizen Helen Johnson, 28, yesterday (June 1) on a mountain cave in remote north-west Afghanistan.  The other hostages included a Kenyan and two Afghan counterparts. The group, all employees of Switzerland-based Medair, were abducted while traveling by donkey to flood-stricken areas of northern Badakhshan province on May 22.

The operation to free the group, authorized by the British prime minister, David Cameron, and the commander of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen USMC, began at around 0130 hours. The rescue operation took less than an hour.

COMMENT: Reportedly, the kidnappers had demanded a ransom payment of US$4 million and the release of a confederate.

Kidnapping has been a risk for foreigners working in Afghanistan for many years. 

Scottish aid worker Linda Norgrove, 36, was kidnapped by the Taliban in Kunar Province on September 26, 2010, and was tragically killed on October 8, during an unsuccessful rescue attempt in Kunar Province in which a member of the joint US rescue team inadvertently threw a grenade in close proximity to Ms. Norgrove. Although she was evacuated, she later died from injuries sustained from the grenade. At the time, she was employed by Development Alternatives, a US-based aid organization.

Violence and instability have been spreading to areas of the country such as Badakhshan that were once considered relatively safe. Also in 2010, ten foreign medical workers, including six Americans, were killed in Badakhshan in an attack blamed on insurgents.