Syria: Red Cross and Red Crescent workers kidnapped
(CNN) — Gunmen kidnapped seven aid workers in northwestern Syria on Sunday, officials said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said six Red Cross workers and one Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer were kidnapped in Syria’s Idlib province, where they had traveled to deliver medical supplies.
Ewan Watson, an ICRC spokesman in Geneva, Switzerland, said the abduction took place Sunday morning by unidentified armed men. He called for “the immediate and unconditional release of our seven colleagues.”
“Both the ICRC and the SARC 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 ICRC’s delegation in Syria, said in a written statement.
Syria’s state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported that an armed terrorist group opened fire on a vehicle the workers were traveling in and then abducted them.
Last month, a top United Nations official warned that violence in Syria was making it increasingly difficult to deliver humanitarian aid there.
“I am particularly concerned about the continued flagrant violations of international law that make it impossible to deliver life-saving assistance,” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said. “Humanitarian space is becoming ever more constrained. Eleven U.N. staff and 22 staff and volunteers from our partners, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, have been killed since the start of the conflict. Many more have been injured, hijacked and kidnapped.”
Syria’s descent into civil war began in March 2011, when the government of Bashar al-Assad cracked down on anti-government demonstrations in the wake of that year’s “Arab Spring” revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries in the region. The United Nations estimates the conflict had claimed more than 100,000 lives.
From Bharati Naik and Saad Abedine
CNN’s Nic Robertson contributed to this report.