Red Cross staff seized in DR Congo
International aid group says eight workers were abducted in east of the country.
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2010 11:29 GMT
The Red Cross did not say if it had been in contact with members of the Mai Mai group [File: EPA]

Eight aid workers have been abducted by armed men in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the International Committe of the Red Cross has said.

The seven Congolese and one Swiss national were seized on Friday near the town of Fizi in South Kivu province.

Red Cross officials said that the abduction had been staged by members of the Mai Mai Yakutumba militia.

"The ICRC has been able to get in touch with some of our colleagues after the incident," Marcal Izard, the Red Cross spokesman, told reporters in Geneva.

He declined to say whether the Red Cross had been in contact with the abductors.

The Swiss foreign ministry said it was aware of the situation and was in touch with the Red Cross and Congolese authorities.

'Humanitarian nature'

The Red Cross has several offices in South Kivu, which like much of eastern DR Congo has been wracked by violence since the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda spilled across the border.

"It is in order to protect and assist armed-conflict victims that we have been carrying out our activities in the area,'' Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the ICRC's mission in Dr Congo, said.

"We continue to insist that the strictly neutral, impartial and humanitarian nature of our work be recognised, and that our colleagues be able to return to their loved ones soon."

The Mai Mai group, which was formed to resist Rwandan Hutu forces who fled into DR Congo after the genocide, controls it own territory in the region.

The region has been the scene of violent clashes which have resulted in the displacement of thousands of civilians in recent months.

Staff of the aid group have previously been targeted for abduction in other conflict regions across the world.

Three foreign Red Cross workers were abducted in the Philippines last year and
French staff members were seized in Chad and Sudan. All have since been released.

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