NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 2 – A Kenyan aid worker along with a Briton and two Afghan aid workers were rescued by NATO Special Forces in a raid early on Saturday, in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan region where they were held hostage.
Swiss-based charity Medair aid workers Moragwa Oirere, Helen Johnston and their Afghan colleagues had been abducted on May 22 while travelling on horseback to relief project sites in the remote and mountainous province of Badakhshan.
The AFP news agency reported that the hostages were being held in a cave in the mountains.
“The mission to rescue the hostages was launched in the early hours of today under cover of darkness with the assistance of helicopters,” a spokesman for NATO’S International Security Assistance Force said.
British forces took part in the operation, which was authorised by Prime Minister David Cameron, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.
“Helen and her colleagues were rescued by ISAF forces, including UK forces, in a carefully planned and coordinated operation,” AFP quoted the FCO saying.
The Chargé d’affaires at the British High Commission in Nairobi Michael Nevin said: “We are delighted that British forces, as part of an ISAF operation were able to safely rescue Kenyan citizen Moragwa Oirere. Throughout this case we have been in close contact with Moragwa’s family, and with the Kenyan authorities. We are grateful for the excellent cooperation that the Kenyan authorities provided, and for the restraint shown by the Kenyan media. We are very glad that we were able to help a Kenyan in need.”
The NATO International Security Assistance Force killed five kidnappers, believed to be Taliban, during the operation that ensued in a cave Badakhshan.
Oirere’s family expressed relief over the news of their daughter’s safe rescue thanking all parties that worked tirelessly bring the ordeal to a safe conclusion.
“We specifically want to thank the British Government for the selfless effort by their people in Afghanistan, in London and in Nairobi, the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Medair in Switzerland and all the people who have been praying for Moragwa’s safe release,” her parents said in a statement.
“We will not forget the media, both abroad and in Kenya for maintaining the privacy of all those affected and especially the four that were in the hands of captors. May we see such privacy in all respects of a similar nature for the safety and security of those affected in future,” they added.
“They are all now safe. Helen and Moragwa are receiving support from British Embassy staff in Kabul. The two Afghan aid workers are returning to their families in Badakhshan,” a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Spokesperson said.
“Staff from the FCO remain in close contact with Helen’s family who are understandably hugely relieved at this news. We are also in touch with Moragwa’s family and with the Afghan and Kenyan governments, and Medair have been in close contact with the families of the Afghan aid workers,” the spokesperson added.
According to AFP, Badakhshan is an impoverished and mountainous province in Afghanistan’s far northeast, and while mainly quiet, there have been pockets of insurgent activity.
Both criminals and Taliban insurgents waging a war against the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai have been responsible for kidnappings in the past.
In August 2010, the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing a group of eight medical aid workers in Badakhshan, claiming they were “Christian missionaries.”
NATO’s Special Forces, which have been instrumental in the war against the Taliban, will be pulling out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and is training Afghan forces to take over responsibility for security.