New Zealand, Red Cross at odds over naming captive nurse

Combined Shape

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s government did not approve an aid agency’s decision to release the name of a New Zealand nurse held captive by the Islamic State group in Syria, the country’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said an International Committee of the Red Cross official’s claim to have acted with New Zealand’s agreement was “balderdash.” He said New Zealand opposed any steps that might endanger 62-year-old midwife and nurse Louisa Akavi or impede her location and release.

“That’s a very polite way of describing how one person has, in my view, dropped the ball so to speak,” Peters said.

The ICRC said it believed it had New Zealand’s support for its decision to allow the New York Times on Sunday to publish the name and nationality Akavi, who was taken prisoner in northwest Syria in 2013.

Ever since her capture, successive New Zealand governments and the ICRC maintained an agreement with international media to keep secret the nurse’s name and nationality.

CNN's Don Lemon Fails to Get Guest to Take 'Bait,' Instead Gets Contradicted on Slavery

New Zealand feared naming Akavi would make her a high profile captive, more likely to be executed by her captors for propaganda. More recently ISIS has vowed to avenge a March 15 attack that left 50 dead at two mosques in New Zealand and Akavi’s nationality could make her a target for retribution.

ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart said he believed the agency had acted with New Zealand’s agreement.

“We would not have made that decision without the support of the New Zealand Government,” he said.

The aid group reasoned that with the collapse of the Islamic State group, naming Akavi would raise the chance of receiving news of her whereabouts and those of the two Syrian drivers kidnapped with her.

The agency said it had received information that Akavi may have been seen alive as recently as December.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday indicated her disappointment with the ICRC’s decision to release the nurse’s name and also said the government had not given its blessing to reveal that information.

Peters said he didn’t want to get engaged in a dispute with the ICRC and have the search for Akavi detoured by it.

He said New Zealand had shared information with the ICRC throughout Akavi’s captivity and there had been times when rescue teams had come close to the location at which she was being held.

“The fact of the matter is we went there looking for someone in the most extremely difficult, changing circumstances and we’ve never given up hope and we’re not giving up hope now,” he said.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City