Five aid workers freed in Syria: medical charity

In the wake of the abduction, MSF says it was forced to close one hospital and two health centres in the Jabal Akkrad region

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Five aid workers who were kidnapped in Syria in January have been freed, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said Thursday.

In a statement, MSF said three of the staff members were released on April 4 and the remaining two on Wednesday.

"Out of respect for the privacy of the five, MSF is not disclosing their identities, nor will the organisation comment further on the circumstances of the captivity or the release," said the aid group, which is also known as Doctors Without Borders.

MSF said that the kidnapping took place on January 2 in a hospital that it was running in northwestern Syria to provide essential healthcare to people affected by the country's raging civil war.

In the wake of the abduction, MSF said it was forced to close one hospital and two health centres in the Jabal Akkrad region.

"The relief of seeing our colleagues return safely is mixed with anger in the face of this cynical act that has cut off an already war ravaged population from desperately needed assistance," MSF's president Joanne Liu said in a statement.

"The direct consequence of taking humanitarian staff is a reduction in lifesaving aid. The long-term victims of this abduction are the Syrian population. Some 150,000 people in the Jabal Akkrad region are now deprived of MSF's medical care, while living in a war zone."

In 2013, MSF medical staff in the three now-shuttered facilities performed 521 surgical operations, many for trauma wounds, 36,294 medical consultations, and safe hospital deliveries for more than 400 mothers, the organisation said.

"Across northern Syria, where MSF continues to operate other medical facilities, security constraints have made it extremely challenging to provide assistance," it said.

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