Red Cross nurse kidnapped in Syria in 2013 'may still be alive'

Stuff has held back from publishing information about the Kiwi nurse Louisa Akavi held captive by Isis for five years. That changed today

Stuff has held back from publishing information about the Kiwi nurse Louisa Akavi held captive by Isis for five years. That changed today

New Zealand revealed Monday that it had dispatched a special forces unit to Syria to search for Louisa Akavi who was abducted by Daesh* some six years ago. "And they told me that she was quite sick and spent most of her day lying down and couldn't get up off the mattress that was on the floor of their cell", Ms Callimachi said.

Details of the kidnapping of Louisa Akavi had been kept under wraps until the International Committee of the Red Cross appealed on Sunday for news about the 62-year-old nurse and two Syrian drivers kidnapped with her in October 2013.

The New Zealand government, led by John Key at the time, had publicly stated that its troops would only operate "behind the wire" in Iraq with no plan for soldiers to engage in combat missions.

The New York Times on Sunday became the first media organization to name Akavi, ending a more than 5 1/2-year news blackout imposed by New Zealand's government and the Red Cross with the co-operation of worldwide media.

The last credible sighting was in December past year, he said.

New Zealand's government said it was searching for Akavi, who successive administrations had previously asked media not to name as they feared it would put her at greater risk.

But he said it was believed Akavi was still held by IS and there were ongoing operations to locate her which included the deployment of a small multi-agency team based in Iraq.

"This has involved members of the New Zealand Defence Force, drawn from the Special Operations Force, and personnel have visited Syria from time to time as required", he said. But there are hopes her medical skills might have caused her captors to spare her. "This noncombat team was specifically focused on locating Louisa and identifying opportunities to recover her", he said.

Akavi's family said they miss her and are proud of the work to which she's dedicated her life. "We know she is thinking of us and that she will be anxious about us too".

"It absolutely remains the government's view that it would be preferable if this case was not in the public domain", she said.

According to the New Zealand Herald, media across New Zealand held back, encouraging other media outlets to do so as well, after the family of Louisa Akavi received an email from Daesh.

"We remain hopeful this period will instead open new opportunities for us to learn more about her whereabouts and wellbeing".

"We are speaking out today to publicly honour and acknowledge Louisa's, Alaa's, and Nabil's hardship and suffering", the ICRC statement said. "With Islamic State group having lost the last of its territory, we felt it was now time to speak out".

The ICRC said following the fall of the last territory held by Islamic State group, it fears there is an extra risk of losing track of Akavi.

"We call on anyone with information to please come forward", Stillhart said.

But with the collapse of ISIS in recent weeks, the Red Cross has broken its silence, hoping publicity will help the organisation find her. It would be the second attempt to free her after a failed attempt in 2014 by US Navy SEALs. "If our colleagues are still being held, we call for their immediate and unconditional release", the ICRC said in a statement.

He said every decision was made in coordination with the New Zealand Government.

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