Two staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) abducted last month in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have been freed, the humanitarian organisation has said.
The ICRC said in late November that one Congolese citizen and an international staff member had been kidnapped in North Kivu province, where dozens of armed groups operate.
“We are relieved by the return of our colleagues and we rejoice that they are able to return to their families,” Rachel Bernhard, head of the ICRC’s delegation in Congo, told Reuters on Saturday.
“We would like to reiterate that this kidnapping and all other attacks against humanitarian personnel can endanger activities dedicated to helping communities hard hit by the conflict.”
She provided no further details about the circumstances of the kidnapping or the subsequent liberation.
The kidnapping took place on November 30 as their two-vehicle convoy travelled from the regional capital Goma to the nearby area of Sake as part of a water supply project.
The area lies in North Kivu province, one of two that have been run by the Congolese military since May when the government declared a state of siege in response to rampant violence by rebel groups.
“The threat of abductions against foreign nationals has increased, especially since 2016, due to a security vacuum and lawlessness that many areas outside urban centres in eastern DRC experience, particularly in North Kivu and in areas bordering Rwanda and Uganda,” GardaWorld security company said in a statement on Saturday.
“Most victims are locals, though foreign aid workers have also been targeted.”
The United Nations and humanitarian organisations have warned about an increase in attacks on aid workers in eastern DRC. Three employees of the UN refugee agency were injured on Wednesday in North Kivu when their vehicle came under fire.