The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that six of its aid workers and a member of the Syrian Red Crescent have been kidnapped by gunmen in Syria.
“Six ICRC staff members and one member of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been abducted in Idlib in northwestern Syria,” ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson told the AFP news agency at the organisation’s Geneva base on Sunday.
“We don’t know who took them. It was unidentified armed men,” he added.
The road on which the members were travelling is notorious for kidnappings, Al Jazeera’s Omar Al Saleh reported. “We understand from talking to activists in that area there are a number of armed groups.”
Magne Barth, head of the ICRC’s delegation in Syria, has called for the immediate release of the members in a statement released on Sunday.
“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,” she said.
The team had travelled to Idlib on October 10 to assess the medical situation in the area and deliver supplies to Sarmin and Idlib city. The convoy, on its way to Damascus, was clearly marked with the ICRC emblem.
Kidnapping has become an increasing problem in Syria, with journalists and aid workers frequently targeted in rebel-held parts of the country, largely located in the north.
Last month a German aid worker held for almost four months escaped his kidnappers in Idlib, just like his two colleagues who managed to flee in July, according to Gruenhelme, the aid group they worked for.
Large parts of the province are under the control of groups who are fighting to oust Assad’s regime in a conflict that has killed more than 115,000 people in two and a half years.
In other violence on Sunday, two cars laden with explosives and driven by suicide bombers blew up near the state broadcaster’s headquarters at night in central Damascus, state media said.
A reporter for government television made no mention of any casualties, saying only that “there were some human remains at the scene, likely those of a suicide bomber”.
State news agency SANA quoted one source as estimating there were about 100kg of explosives in one of the cars.
Rebels hold a number of suburbs in the outskirts of Damascus and have managed to carry out mortar and rocket strikes into central areas of the capital in recent months, although major attacks in the city centre are still relatively rare.
A car bomb killed at least 20 people and wounded dozens more last month when it exploded in Rankus, a town 30 km north of Damascus.