Nurse kidnapped by IS five years ago may be alive, Red Cross

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A New York Times journalist who has been tracking a New Zealand nurse kidnapped by ISIS for five-and-a-half years says she may be in a camp in northern Syria.

In its first detailed statement on the incident, the ICRC said on Sunday night Louisa Akavi, Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes were seized in October 2013 while travelling to Idlib province in north-western Syria, the BBC reported.

But the final pocket of Isil's "caliphate", in Baghuz, eastern Syria, was captured last month and there has been no news.

On Sunday, The New York Times became the first media organisation to name Ms Akavi, ending a five-year news blackout imposed by the New Zealand government and Red Cross with the cooperation of worldwide media.

But on Monday the Red Cross broke cover to name Ms Akavi and appeal for any information that could lead to her being found.

Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the ICRC, said the organization had chose to permit publication in the hope it would elicit new information on her whereabouts.

He added that New Zealand-born nurse Louisa was "a true and compassionate humanitarian".

"What we actually know is that Louisa has been working as a nurse during her abduction which shows her dedication and commitment", ICRC director of operations, Dominik Stillhart, said. "If our colleagues are still being held, we call for their immediate and unconditional release", the ICRC said in a statement.

According to the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, information about the kidnapping had not been previously released for fear that any publicity would place them at greater risk, however, it was believed Akavi was still held by Daesh and there were ongoing operations to locate.

Most recently, Ms Akavi was believed to have been spotted in the ISIS stronghold of Sousa in December a year ago. "It's working with the national staff who do the best they can".

The New York Times reported the agency had information on three other sightings in Abu Kamal in 2016, Raqqa in 2017 and Mayadeen previous year.

The Swiss-run agency has a policy of never paying ransoms.

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The ICRC, which has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to find her and the two Syrian staff members abducted with her, knows that she spent time in Raqqa, and that she was alive at the end of past year.

"The US did one in July of 2014 to try and get out the American hostages Kayla Mueller and James Foley".

Numerous other prisoners were then executed by ISIS in a series of brutal beheading videos, but Ms Akavi was allowed to live. New Zealand revealed Monday that it had dispatched a special forces unit to Syria to search for Louisa Akavi who was abducted by Daesh* some six years ago.

"We remain hopeful this period will instead open new opportunities for us to learn more about her whereabouts and wellbeing".

Ms Lawless said they had no information about her health.

Louisa has dedicated her life to assisting those affected by war and violence and she went to Syria because people needed her.

Mr Dyer said the Red Cross does not pay ransoms, and he was not aware of her family asking for a ransom to be paid.

Mr Dyer said the last sighting of her was in December 2018, and there was a "high degree of probability that it was her".

'We miss Louisa very much.

"We did not want to do anything that might have jeopardised her chances of living".

A relative of Ms Akavi said the family had a strong presence in the town of Porirua on New Zealand's North Island. Both are married men with children.

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