Dutch aid worker Arjan Erkel freed

11th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

11 April 2004, AMSTERDAM — Dutch aid worker Arjan Erkel has been rescued from his kidnappers following 20 months in captivity in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan.

11 April 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch aid worker Arjan Erkel has been rescued from his kidnappers following 20 months in captivity in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan.

Arjan Erkel

He was freed from his captors in the early hours of Sunday morning in a joint operation by the Russian federal security service, FSB, and local officers, the Interior Ministry in Dagestan said.

Erkel, 34, was head of the relief mission for organisation Artsen zonder Grenzen, or Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), in Dagestan — a constituent republic of the Russian Federation.

His main task was caring for refugees fleeing from fighting in neighbouring Chechnya. MSF is also known in English as Doctors Without Borders.

Three gunmen forced him into a car in the capital Machatsjkala in August 2002, an event apparently witnessed by two unarmed FSB agents who had been shadowing Erkel.

The authorities in Dagestan and the federal government in Moscow blamed the kidnapping on gangsters, but MSF suggested the Russians were behind the kidnapping to silence critics of Russia's war in Chechnya.

In the Netherlands, a spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry confirmed Erkel was free and that Foreign Minister Ben Bot was "relieved and happy", newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

"The minister is grateful for the help which the Russian authorities, other governments and international organisations offered to secure Arjan’s release," the spokesperson said.

But the Dutch Ministry declined to give details of how this came about.

News agency Reuters reported that Erkel has arrived in Moscow where he told a media cameraman he was very tired. Erkel, looking thin and with a beard, was in good spirits, the cameraman said.

Erkel was expected to be reunited with his family in Moscow later on Sunday, Dutch public news service NOS reported.

MSF said Erkel was taken to the Dutch embassy in Moscow, but both the embassy and the Dutch Foreign Ministry have declined to comment on this, various Dutch media sources reported.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news + Arjan Erkel freed

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