INTERNATIONAL AID

Spanish aid worker freed in Afghanistan after month-long ordeal

Small-time criminal gang behind the kidnapping, says Afghan government

The aid worker (c) after his release. AP / VÍDEO: QUALITY

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The aid worker was “safe and sound and currently with a Red Cross team after Afghan special forces ensured his release,” according to Spanish news agency EFE.

The Red Cross worker was kidnapped in mid-December after being singled out from the group he was traveling with at a fake roadblock set up to ambush two vehicles without an escort, said the ICRC at the time.

Spain’s Foreign Ministry was not directly involved in the release

Although the ICRC have not revealed the identity of the kidnappers, their motives, or details of the aid worker’s release, Afghan government sources said the kidnappers were part of a well-known criminal group who did not have the capacity to hold a hostage for a long period of time.

The fear was that the group would “sell” the prisoner on to a terrorist organization with greater infrastructure, like ISIS or the Taliban. “Fortunately that did not happen,” sources said.

The chief of police for Kunduz province, General Abdul Hamid Hamidi, told EFE that the aid worker had been released when several members of the group holding him attempted to transfer him by car to a new location. Investigations were still underway, the official said, refusing to confirm whether the group known as Haji Fateh has been behind the kidnapping.

If Red Cross protocols are followed, the aid worker will be flown to Geneva before returning to Spain.

Spain’s Foreign Ministry was not directly involved in the release of the aid worker after the ICRC asked to take the lead in the operation, but offered support where required and kept in permanent contact with the Spaniard’s family.

English version by George Mills.