Thursday, 25 April, 2019

Red Cross and govt go public over missing nurse Louisa Akavi

Louisa Akavi Islamic State kidnapped NZ nurse Louisa Akavi over five years ago — and she could be alive
Jeannette Daniel | 17 April, 2019, 13:03

The three staff members were travelling in a Red Cross convoy that was delivering supplies to medical facilities in the northwestern province of Idlib in Syria, when armed men stopped their vehicles on October 13, 2013.

Since the last patch of ISIS resistance in Syria was wiped out last month, the Red Cross has launched an appeal to trace them over fears they may have been executed.

On Sunday, The New York Times became the first media organisation to name Ms Akavi, ending a five-year news blackout imposed by the New Zealand government and Red Cross with the cooperation of worldwide media.

Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the ICRC, said the organisation had chose to permit publication in the hope it would elicit new information on her whereabouts.

'Louisa is a true and compassionate humanitarian. Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes, both Syrian nationals, worked as drivers who delivered humanitarian assistance in the country.

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

"Our latest credible information indicates that Louisa was alive in late 2018", it said.

Most recently, Ms Akavi was believed to have been spotted in the ISIS stronghold of Sousa in December past year. "This has also involved a wide range of other agencies, and cooperation with global partners", said the official.

The ICRC, which has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to find her and the two Syrian staff members abducted with her, knows that she spent time in Raqqa, and that she was alive at the end of a year ago.

American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by Jihadi John in August 2014, was also said to have been held at the jail.

New Zealand's government is reported to have opposed the ICRC's decision to allow The New York Times to report Akavi's name and nationality.

More news: Google, Apple asked to comply with Madras HC’s TikTok ban order

Numerous other prisoners were then executed by ISIS in a series of brutal beheading videos, but Ms Akavi was allowed to live.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters confirmed on Monday that a New Zealand aid worker remained missing more than five years after she was taken hostage in Syria.

A spokesman for Akavi's family, Tuaine Robati, said she knew the dangers she faced.

There is also the extraordinary stoicism of her family, who have had to wait, fearing the worst, knowing that paying a ransom for her release was not a possibility, and clinging to every flimsy thread of hope, such as reported sightings, for more than five years. Four of the abductees were released the next day, however, Louisa's fate, and that of her two Syrian colleagues, remains unknown. "Our family is very proud of her". She loves helping people.

But New Zealand's government says she should not have been publicly named.

"In these situations the priority must be the safety of the hostage and we received clear advice that any publicity would place Louisa at even greater risk", Peters said.

An elite New Zealand force of spies and defence force personnel were sent to the Middle East to work alongside United States counterparts in an attempt to find and rescue Akavi but have been unsuccessful.

'This community is small and the Cook Island community gossips so my family, all of us, are under a lot of strain'.

He had heard rumours of rescue attempts, and the ICRC network has tried to find her over the last years. If our colleagues are still being held, we call for their immediate and unconditional release, ' Mr. Stillhart added.

For six years, a shroud of silence surrounded the life of the New Zealander held hostage by Daesh.

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