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Middle East

Three Red Cross and one Red Crescent aid workers released from group kidnapped in northern Syria

Humanitarian agency official tweets that four of the seven kidnapped on Sunday are safe

Four out of a group of seven Red Cross and Red Crescent workers kidnapped by armed militants in northern Syria are free and safe, according to a senior official at the humanitarian agency.

Robert Mardini, the International Committee of the Red Cross' (ICRC) head of operations for the Middle East, tweeted that the four released were "safe and sound".

While the ICRC's Geneva office has confirmed the tweet is accurate, they are yet to provide any more details.

The team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been visiting the area from Damascus in order to assess the medical situation and look at the best ways to provide its people with aid.

Gunmen described by the Syrian regime as ‘terrorists’ ambushed and fired upon the international team’s convoy before seizing the workers on Sunday.

Their convoy of four vehicles was stopped and, according to reports from Syria’s state news agency, fired upon by a group of gunmen described as “terrorists” – a term the regime often uses to describe those who oppose the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

The seven people seized included six members of the ICRC and a volunteer from the Syrian Red Crescent, according to a statement.

Simon Schorno, a spokesman for the ICRC based in Damascus, said the kidnapping took place at around 11.30am local time (9.30am BST) on Sunday, near the town of Saraqeb in the Idlib province.

Mr Schorno said the names and nationalities of the international team were not being released.

He said the team of seven had been working the north of the country since 10 October, and added that the part of Syria where they were working is “by definition a difficult area to go in”.

Disparate rebel groups control much of northern Syria, including the countryside of Idlib, and kidnappings have become an increasingly common occurrence, particularly among aid workers and foreign journalists.