Australian Aid Worker Released 4 Months After Being Kidnapped In Afghanistan
NEW DELHI: Australian aid worker Kerry Wilson has been released after being abducted in Afghanistan earlier this year, the Australian government confirmed on Monday.
The 60 year old had been working with Afghan women's charity Zardozi when she was taken from the NGO's office in Jalalabad in April. Jalalabad is a volatile area, located close to the border with Pakistan and considered a stronghold of various militant groups. It was not known who was behind Wilson’s kidnapping.
Confirming her release, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop released a statement saying Wilson was “safe” and “well.” "I deeply appreciate the work of the authorities in Afghanistan whose support and assistance facilitated her release, as well as Australian consular staff who continue to provide assistance to Ms Wilson and her family," the statement added. “I am relieved for Kerry Jane, and her family, with whom I have remained in close contact,” Bishop said.
The Australian government has said that it will not be releasing any details regarding the circumstances of Wilson’s release. "To protect those who remain captive or face the risk of kidnapping in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Government will not comment on the circumstances of Kerry Jane's release," the statement said.
“Her family has asked for privacy,” the minister’s statement concluded.
Australia says it does not pay ransoms for hostages.
Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar Province, whose capital is Jalalabad, confirmed the release. Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, said in a brief statement that its special forces had carried out a raid to free Wilson. “In regards to the case, several suspects have been arrested and the investigation is ongoing,” the statement said.
It is not known who kidnapped Wilson, and whether the same group was the one that released her. In April when she was kidnapped, her father, Brian, told the media: “I presume she’s a hostage, and that they’ll do their best to keep her alive and not harm her, simply because they want to have something or other in return and it’s not very good having a dead hostage.” “She’s on the security network, it’s always dangerous. There’s always peril in the background.”
Wilson had worked in the region for more than 20 years. Zardozi, the organisation of which she was executive director, helps women in poor urban areas start small businesses selling handicrafts and clothing to shopkeepers and traders.
Abductions - particularly targeting foreign journalists and aid workers - remains a high concern in Afghanistan. Earlier in August, two teachers, an American and an Australian -- employed at the American University in Kabul -- were abducted at gunpoint from a nearby road. They remain missing.
In June, it is estimated that the Taliban kidnapped more than 200 travelers.