June 20, 2019
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New Zealand criticizes Red Cross for naming nurse held by Islamic State

 An undated handout photo made available by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shows Red Cross nurse Louisa Akavi, from New Zealand. EPA-EFE/FILE/ICRC/HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

An undated handout photo made available by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shows Red Cross nurse Louisa Akavi, from New Zealand. EPA-EFE/FILE/ICRC/HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

Sydney, Australia, Apr 16 (efe-epa).- The vice prime minister of New Zealand on Tuesday criticized the decision by the International Committee of the Red Cross to disclose the identity of a Kiwi nurse abducted by the Islamic State in 2013 in Syria.

Winston Peters was speaking on the issue two days after the ICRC made a public call for information about three staff of its members held captive by the Islamic State for the last more than five years in the war-ravaged West Asian country.

The humanitarian organization identified the abducted personnel with their names and countries of origin, describing Louisa Akavi, a citizen of New Zealand, as “an experienced, dedicated and resilient nurse who has carried out 17 field missions with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the New Zealand Red Cross”.

Successive New Zealand governments had since her abduction in October 2013 kept Akavi's capture and her identity secret for fear that any news might jeopardize the life of the nurse.

She was reportedly last seen in January this year tending to wounded fighters in Al-Baghuz, the last stronghold of the Islamic State in Syria.

“What I said was, was that the message that was being carried (that the government supported the decision to release the information) was balderdash. That's a very polite way of describing how one person has, in my view, dropped the ball so to speak," Peters told Radio New Zealand.

"Not the whole organization and not the wider international purpose of being engaged there, but I don't want to condemn a highly worthy international humanitarian organization,'' he added.

The New Zealand government established a group in 2013 to locate Akavi and went on to send a team of special forces and intelligence personnel to Iraq and Syria to try to rescue her, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

Ardern also expressed her opposition to the ICRC's decision to make Akavi's identity public.

"It absolutely remains the government's view that it would be preferable to if this case was not in the public domain," Ardern told reporters.

Meanwhile, ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart said that the decision was made "in full transparency and coordination" with the New Zealand government.

Akavi, who has been working for the Red Cross since 1988, was kidnapped by the IS along with Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes, both Syrians, who worked as drivers for the humanitarian organization.

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