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Efforts Underway to Retrieve Kidnapped ICRC Official in Afghanistan

FILE - A medic adjusts a prosthetic leg at the International Committee of the Red Cross orthopedic hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, July 17, 2010.

A search operation is underway in Afghanistan to recover a kidnapped foreigner working for the International Committee of the Red Cross, provincial authorities said.

Several staff members were traveling in two vehicles to the restive northern Kunduz province on Monday when unknown gunmen intercepted them, according to an ICRC statement.

They took hostage one male colleague while the rest were let go, it added, without discussing the nationality of the abductee.

Police in Kunduz told VOA the man is Spanish, while those freed were Afghan nationals.

The ICRC says it is in contact with various authorities to determine what precisely happened and to secure the individual’s safe and unconditional release as quickly as possible.

“We are extremely concerned for the safety of our colleague,” said the ICRC’s head of delegation in Afghanistan, Monica Zanarelli.

Aid groups say that millions of displaced Afghans are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in the war-torn country, including cash, health services and supplies, shelter, food and non-food items.

But they maintain access constraints associated primarily with insecurity and conflict-related road closures in the eastern, southern and northern parts of Afghanistan limit their ability to help.

Within the past five months, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has registered a total of 67 incidents of violence against its staff, non-governmental organizations and other international groups, killing four aid workers and injuring four others.

As of early November, 63 aid workers had been abducted during 2016, though the number stood at 93 in the previous year, according to UNAMA.