Gunmen abduct Red Cross workers in Syria - state media

by Reuters
Sunday, 13 October 2013 13:49 GMT

This Sept. 4 file photo shows vehicles waiting to transport Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), for a meeting with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

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BEIRUT, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Gunmen kidnapped a number of Red Cross workers in northwest Syria after opening fire on their vehicles on Sunday, Syrian state media reported.

Quoting an unnamed official, state news agency SANA said the workers were traveling in the Idlib area when gunmen blocked their path, shot at their convoy, seized them and took them to an unknown location.

"An armed terrorist group today kidnapped a number of workers in the mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria," the report said, using a term the government frequently uses for rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

The report did not give more details such as the nationalities of those held and could not immediately be verified.

A spokesman for the ICRC in Geneva said he could not confirm or deny a Russian media report that three ICRC staff were kidnapped in Idlib.

"We are in the process of fact finding," said the ICRC spokesman, Ewan Watson.

Kidnappings have become increasingly common in northern Syria, where rebels have captured swathes of territory but government forces have clung on to many urban centres and fighting continues daily.

The 2-1/2-year-old conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives. (Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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