Three of the six Red Cross aid workers abducted by gunmen in northwest Syria on Sunday have been released, along with a volunteer from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Monday.
"Good news! We confirm that the Syrian Red Crescent volunteer and three out of six ICRC colleagues have been released safe and sound," Robert Mardini, head of ICRC operations for the Near and Middle East, said in a tweet.
Quoting an unnamed official, state news agency SANA said Sunday that the workers were travelling 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.
Watson was not able to confirm that shots had been fired, but said the team's vehicles were also missing. The team had been on their way back to Damascus after delivering medical supplies in Sarmin and Idlib, he said.
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 conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives and driven more than 2.1 million refugees out of their shattered homeland.
David Wyllie, BreakingNews.com, contributed to this report.
First published October 14 2013, 6:06 AM