Special forces in search for New Zealand nurse held hostage by Daesh

Red Cross worker Louisa Akavi, a New Zealand national, is seen in this undated handout photo released by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Reuters on April 14 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 April 2019

Special forces in search for New Zealand nurse held hostage by Daesh

  • New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said information about the kidnapping had not been previously released for fear that any publicity would place them at greater risk

WELLINGTON: New Zealand revealed Monday that it had dispatched a special forces unit to Syria to search for nurse Louisa Akavi who was abducted by the Daesh group more than five years ago.
Details of the kidnapping had been kept under wraps until the International Committee of the Red Cross appealed on Sunday for news about 62-year-old Akavi and two Syrian drivers kidnapped with her in October 2013.
They were in a Red Cross convoy delivering supplies to medical facilities in Idlib, northwest Syria, when armed men stopped the vehicles and abducted seven people. Four were released the next day.
New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said information about the kidnapping had not been previously released for fear that any publicity would place them at greater risk.
But he said it was believed Akavi was still held by Daesh and there were ongoing operations to locate her which included the deployment of a small multi-agency team based in Iraq.
“This has involved members of the NZDF (New Zealand defense force) drawn from the Special Operations Force, and personnel have visited Syria from time to time as required,” Peters said.
“This non-combat team was specifically focused on locating Louisa and identifying opportunities to recover her.”
The New York Times has reported the Red Cross has reason to believe she is alive, because at least two people described seeing her in December at a clinic in Sousa, one of the final villages to be held by Daesh terrorists.
Some of the witnesses said they saw her performing medical duties at clinics and hospitals under Daesh control, indicating that she was no longer held in a cell and was able to use her nursing skills to win a modicum of freedom.


UAE says 50% of federal government staff to return to offices from June 7

Updated 19 min 24 sec ago

UAE says 50% of federal government staff to return to offices from June 7

  • The government’s announcement stressed the need for employees to maintain precautionary measures

DUBAI: Half of all government staff in the UAE will return to work on Sunday, June 7, as the country begins to return to some level of normality amid the coronavirus global pandemic. 
The government said late on Wednesday that the decision followed the successful return of federal staff at a 30 percent level last week.
“The move falls within the efforts to restore normalcy of government work and the gradual return of employees and services,” a statement cited by state news agency WAM said. 
Pregnant women, the disabled, as well as those with compromised immunity and chronic diseases, including asthma and diabetes, will be exempted from returning to offices, and will continue to work remotely.
Elderly and females caring for children in grade nine and below and children with disabilities whose conditions entail constant care are also exempt from returning to offices. employees in shared accommodation with people who are susceptible to health risks and are in constant contact with them will also remain working from home. 
The government’s announcement stressed the need for employees to maintain precautionary measures, including physical distancing to ensure the safety of staff.