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Red Cross Angered a Country by Revealing Her Name

New Zealand says it never gave permission to release name of nurse held by ISIS
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 16, 2019 7:37 AM CDT
This undated photo released by International Committee of the Red Cross, the organization's New Zealand nurse Louisa Akavi.   (International Committee of the Red Cross via AP)
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(Newser) – New Zealand's government did not approve the International Committee of the Red Cross' decision to release the name of a New Zealand nurse held captive by ISIS in Syria, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday. Foreign Minister Winston Peters said an ICRC 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, reports the AP. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday also said the government had not given its blessing. 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. 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. The aid group reasoned that with the collapse of ISIS, naming Akavi would raise the chance of receiving news of her whereabouts. The agency said it had received information that Akavi may have been seen alive as recently as December.

(Read more ISIS stories.)

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