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Red Cross Hostages Freed in DRC

The Red Cross says eight of its workers who were kidnapped by militants in the Democratic Republic of Congo last week have been freed.

The international relief organization says the workers were handed over to Red Cross officials Friday in the area of Fizi, a region in the eastern province of South Kivu.

A statement released by the group says the workers are "in good health." In the statement, Red Cross DRC head Franz Rauchenstein says their return "marks the end of a series of long, hard days" for the workers' families and friends.

The seven Congolese and one Swiss national worker had been held by Mai Mai rebels in South Kivu province since last Friday.

On Thursday, the group's leader, Aluri Yakutumba, said he wanted soldiers to leave his area so the hostages could be handed over to a Red Cross team.

He said the eight were taken for their own protection after being caught up in fighting between his group and the Democratic Republic of Congo's army.

Congo's North and South Kivu provinces are home to various rebel and militia groups. Yakutumba's Mai Mai militia rejected an offer to join the Congolese army last year.

The Red Cross has permanent staff in war-torn South Kivu to help local civilians.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.