Red Cross Staff Kidnapped in Congo

PARIS — The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday that an “armed group” had kidnapped eight of its staff members in the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a statement on its Web site, the organization said from its headquarters in Geneva that seven of the people seized were Congolese and one was Swiss. They are being held in an area where chaos took root after the violence of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda spread across the border to Congo.

In recent months, fighting in the area has forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

The Red Cross statement said the hostages had been held since Friday by a group called the Mai Mai Yakutumba. “The staff were seized around 2 p.m. local time after completing an assessment of the needs of displaced people in the area,” the statement said.

It quoted Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the Red Cross delegation in Congo, as demanding their release “as quickly as possible.”

“We are in contact with our colleagues, and their families have been briefed on the situation,” the Red Cross statement said, without saying whether there had been contact with the kidnappers.

“We continue to insist that the strictly neutral, impartial and humanitarian nature of our work be recognized, and that our colleagues be able to return to their loved ones soon,” Mr. Rauchenstein said.

The Red Cross said it maintained a permanent presence in South Kivu in the towns of Bukavu, Uvira, Marungu and Fizi.

[original]

spotted by RS

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