.- A day after their kidnapping in Syria, the whereabouts of three relief workers from the Red Cross remain unknown, though another three of their companions, as well as a Red Crescent volunteer, have been released.
“Good news! We confirm that the Syrian Red Crescent volunteer and 3 out of 6 ICRC colleagues have been released safe & sound,” Robert Mardini, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross' Middle East operations, tweeted Oct. 14.
The relief workers were reportedly abducted by gunmen Oct. 13 near Saraqib, about 35 miles southwest of Aleppo, in a region largely controlled by the Free Syrian Army, an opposition group.
According to SANA, media outlet of the Assad regime, the kidnapping was carried out by “terrorist” rebels, with whom the government has been in a civil war for more than two years.
Little is publicly known about the seven aid workers who were kidnapped, but they had been sent to the locale to assess the medical situation and to deliver medical supplies.
“Both the ICRC and the SARC (Syrian Arab Red Crescent) work tirelessly to provide impartial humanitarian assistance for those most in need across Syria on both sides of the front lines, and incidents such as these potentially undermine our capacity to assist those who need us most,” Magne Barth, head of the Red Cross' Syrian delegation, stated Oct. 13.
“The ICRC is committed to assisting the Syrian people and will continue conducting its humanitarian activities both in the country and in neighbouring countries for refugees there.”
Kidnappings are an increasingly common fact of life in Syria. In April, two Orthodox bishops were abducted near Aleppo, and their driver was killed. Their whereabouts remain unknown. The bishops were on a humanitarian mission to help two kidnapped priests when they were themselves kidnapped.
And in July, Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit, was kidnapped in Ar-Raqqah, 130 miles east of Aleppo, in north central Syria. A reporter and activist reported Oct. 5 that Fr. Dall'Oglio was then alive and “being treated well by his kidnappers.”
The Syrian conflict is now in its 30th month, having begun when demonstrations sprang up nationwide in the Spring of 2011, protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president and leader the country's Ba'ath Party.
In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters. Since then, the violence has morphed into a civil war which has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people.
There are some 2 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.
An additional 4.25 million Syrian people are believed to have been internally displaced by the war.
The Syrian rebels are made up of a number of groups, including both secularists such as the Free Syrian Army, and Islamists such as al-Nusra Front.
Following an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria, Western nations considered military intervention in the civil war, amid dispute over who was responsible for the attack.
However, the government has since agreed to chemical disarmament, and last week, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the body in charge of destroying Syrian chemical weapons.