Four aid workers are apparently safe after a raid in which several kidnappers and militants were killed. Prime Minister David Cameron said the rescue should serve as a warning to terrorists who seize Britons abroad.
NATO forces Saturday rescued four aid workers who had been held in a cave by militants for almost two weeks. Helen Johnston of Great Britain, Moragwe Oirere of Kenya and two Afghans were working for a Swiss humanitarian organization Medair when a terrorist group took them hostage May 22.
The four were abducted while traveling on horseback to flood-stricken project sites in Badakhshan province, and were held in a cave near Gulati, a village in northern Afghanistan's remote, mountainous terrain. The NATO rescue operation, spearheaded by British troops, apparently involved a long march on which troops ran the risk of being discovered.
Shams ul-Rahman, deputy governor of Badakhshan province where Gulati lies, said that Afghan elders in the region collaborated on attempts to release the hostages. He confirmed that the kidnappers, an armed militant group with ties to the Taliban, were killed in the operation.
Launched under the cover of darkness with aid from helicopters, the mission was described by British Prime Minister David Cameron as "extraordinarily brave, breathtaking even." The hostages were rescued unharmed and no NATO forces were injured, although a number of militants were killed, Afghan officials reported.
The kidnappers were armed with "heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s," said a spokesperson for the coalition.
The four rescued workers appeared to be in good health. British embassy staff in Kabul are supporting the two foreign women, while the two Afghans are returning to their families in Badakhshan.
Johnston's family issued a statement saying they were "delighted" and "relieved" to hear of the rescuers, while also expressing gratitude to those involved with the rescue.
Cameron said the rescue should serve as a warning to terrorists, who "can expect a swift and brutal end" if they take British hostages.
"We do not pay ransoms, we do not trade prisoners," Cameron stated.
The Taliban has apparently increased violence, including attacks on security forces, over the past several days. Foreign combat forces are set to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
sad/rc (Reuters, AP, AFP)