The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that three of its staff and a Syrian Red Crescent volunteer have been freed by unidentified captors. Three ICRC workers remain in captivity.
Four of the seven hostages seized in the northern province of Idlib at the weekend were freed on Monday, according to the head of operations for the Near and the Middle East for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
"Good news! We confirm that the Syrian Red Crescent volunteer and three out of six ICRC colleagues have been released safe and sound," the ICRC's Robert Mardini said on Twitter. Mardini's colleague Ewan Watson said the ICRC was waiting for information on the remaining three hostages.
The aid workers were traveling back towards the capital Damascus after a four-day mission delivering medical supplies in Idlib when they were abducted on Sunday. The Red Cross had not revealed details about the hostages' identities, but had said that most of the team were Syrian.
The Red Cross reported last month that 22 of its workers had died in Syria since the country's civil war broke out in March 2011 - a conflict thought to have claimed more than 100,000 lives.
"Of course this type of incident is terrible because it is disruptive and puts in jeopardy our operations in Syria," Mardini told the Reuters news agency shortly before the release of four of the hostages.
Elsewhere in Idlib province on Monday, two activist groups reported a car bombing in the rebel-held northwestern town of Darkoush, saying the bombers targeted a marketplace. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 27, while the Local Coordination Committees said 15 people were killed.
Kerry, Brahimi in London
US Secretary of State John Kerry met with UN special representative Lakhdar Brahimi in London on Monday, saying he hoped to soon set a date for the so-called Geneva 2 meeting on the future of Syria.
"For our part the United States are deeply committed to try to set a date very soon," Kerry said, before adding that any deal for Syria would require the removal of President Bashar al-Assad. "President Assad has lost the legitimacy necessary to be able to be a cohesive force that could bring people together,' he said.
Kerry's comments followed a Russian appeal to the US to ensure that opposition groups attend the talks, the long-sought follow-up to the first Geneva conference in the Swiss city in June 2012.
The UN-Arab League special envoy Brahimi said he would visit Syria after this week's Eid al-Adha celebrations.
"I am going to the region immediately after Eid to see as many people as I can to discuss with them, to hear from them what are their pre-occupations, what are their ideas and how they can contribute to this Geneva conference," Brahimi said.
msh/ph (AFP, AP, Reuters)