KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — A militia in eastern Congo that seized eight Red Cross workers a week ago released them yesterday, Red Cross officials said.
The seven Congolese and a Swiss national taken by the Mai Mai rebels are in good health and were being flown by UN helicopter to Bukavu, the provincial capital, said Desire Yuma, whose national Red Cross staff were among the captives. Geneva-based spokeswoman Nicole Engelbrecht said the staffers were released unconditionally, without ransom payment or other deals made to secure their release.
Franz Rauchenstein, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Congo, said in a news release that the organization is “relieved and happy to have our eight colleagues back, in good health.’’
“Their return marks the end of a series of long, hard days, not only for them but for their families and friends,’’ he said “We would like to express our deep gratitude to all those who have lent us their support over the last few days.’’
The Red Cross has offices in South Kivu, which like much of eastern Congo has been wracked by violence since the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda spilled war across the border.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the group’s mission was to protect and assist victims of violence.
The shadowy Mai Mai militia is one of many armed groups in the area. Their fighters have been seen using rudimentary weapons like spears and are believed to value mysticism.