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Kidnapped nurse identified in new Red Cross appeal to find her

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The identity of a nurse who was abducted in Syria five years ago has been revealed for the first time by the Red Cross, which warned that the “urgency” to find her had reached a “new peak”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has today made a public appeal to help find New Zealand nurse, Louisa Akavi, who was kidnapped by the Islamic State in North Western Syria in October 2013.

“I can’t even start imagining the suffering and hardship Louisa has gone through”

Dominik Stillhart

The humanitarian organisation said Ms Akavi may still be alive, having last received information about her in December 2018.

But the ICRC has said it was now concerned that, because the Islamic State has lost its’ territory of the region, there could be an “extra risk of losing her”.

Though the committee also noted it remained “hopeful” that this new period would instead open up new opportunities to help find her.

Ms Akavi, who has worked for the Red Cross since 1988, has been described as a “dedicated and resilient nurse” who has carried out 17 field missions with the ICRC and the New Zealand Red Cross.

According to the ICRC, Ms Akavi was abducted along with six of her colleagues on 13 October 2013, while travelling in a Red Cross convoy that was delivering supplies to medical facilities in Idlib. The next day, four of those captured were released.

Since then, the ICRC has said it has made “continued and repeated efforts” to win the nurses’ freedom and has “repeatedly received credible information” about her.

However, the ICRC said it has never been able to learn more details about her two colleagues who were also taken. Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes, both Syrian nationals, worked as ICRC drivers who delivered humanitarian assistance in the country.

“Today with the loss of territory of the Islamic State in Syria, the urgency to find our colleagues has reached a new peak”

Dominik Stillhart

Dominik Stillhart, director of operations, at the ICRC said: “We are speaking out today to publicly honour and acknowledge Louisa’s, Alaa’s, and Nabil’s hardship and suffering.

“We also want our three colleagues to know that we’ve always continued to search for them and we are still trying our hardest to find them,” he said.

Mr Stillhart added: “I can’t even start imagining the suffering and hardship Louisa has gone through.”

He explained that the ICRC was aware that Ms Akiva has been working as a nurse during her abduction. Mr Stillhart said this showed her “dedication and commitment to the mission and mandate of the Red Cross – caring for people affected by conflict”.

“Today with the loss of territory of the Islamic State in Syria, the urgency to find our colleagues has reached a new peak.

“We are thus calling on anybody who has information on Louisa, Alaa and Nabil to urgently step forward and share this information with us,” he said.

“The past five years have been beyond difficult for the families and friends of Louisa, Alaa and Nabil who are desperately awaiting for news,” said Mr Stillhart.

He noted that this example was the longest ever abduction case in the 156 years history of the ICRC.

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