A Finnish aid worker held hostage for nearly four months in Afghanistan was freed on 14 September. She had been kidnapped from an international guesthouse in Kabul, run by her employer, Operation Mercy, when it was attacked in May; her German female colleague and Afghan guard were killed. The unnamed woman was studying Dari, preparing for her first assignment.
The Swedish-based aid organisation said “It is with great joy that we confirm the release of our Finnish colleague, who was abducted on 20 May. The well-being of our colleague is being assessed at this time. We request privacy for our colleague and our colleague’s family.”
Finland’s foreign ministry confirmed she was “safe” but gave no further details.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, nor for holding her hostage.
The German woman had worked in Afghanistan for 13 years (with Operation Mercy since 2011) and headed a literacy project. “Both [women] were experienced and had a deep desire to serve the people of Afghanistan,” said the organisation in a statement shortly after the May attack.
The guard, who was beheaded, was employed directly by the residents of the compound, not by the aid agency.
Guesthouse neighbours told the German broadcaster ZDF that the perpetrators seemed to have slipped quietly into the guesthouse premises. Operation Mercy said they had broken into the women’s residence, and that other staff were not affected, nor were they aware of the incident as it unfolded.
After the incident, the Finnish foreign ministry, together with the Afghanistan National Directorate of Security, launched an investigation, urging “the immediate release of the kidnapped person.”
Operation Mercy has over 300 staff worldwide. Its work in Afghanistan includes projects helping to reduce infant mortality, provide leadership training and help to empower women.
Sources: World Watch Monitor, BBC