Red Cross urges Nigerian militants to spare 2 health workers

October 14, 2018 - 8:42 am

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The International Committee of the Red Cross made an urgent appeal on Sunday to an affiliate of the Islamic State organization in Nigeria to spare the lives of two abducted health workers.

The women risk the fate of a colleague who was killed by the extremists last month, the statement said. "We urge you for mercy."

The global aid organization urged Nigerian authorities and others who might have influence to help. "Speed and urgency are critical. A deadline that could result in the killing of another health care worker is less than 24 hours away."

The three health workers were seized in March in Nigeria's northeastern community of Rann, where thousands have sought shelter from the deadly threat posed by Boko Haram extremists and a recent offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province group.

That organization has grown into the largest IS-linked extremist group in Africa, with a "tentative" estimate of 3,500 fighters, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point said in a report in August.

The killing in September of health worker Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa led to outrage. She was abducted along with Hauwa Mohammed Liman, who was working in a local hospital supported by the ICRC, and Alice Loksha, a nurse who worked at a center supported by the U.N. children's agency.

Nigeria's government has said it continues to press for the release of all held captive by extremists, including Leah Sharibu, a student seized in a mass abduction in February. She remains held while more than 100 of her fellow students were released because she is Christian. Her mother in recent weeks has said her life was in danger.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who declared that defeating the extremists was a top priority when he took power in 2015, in recent days sent three Cabinet ministers to meet with the families of Sharibu and the abducted health workers, his office said.

Buhari has called the killing of Khorsa "an act of extreme barbarism; utterly reprehensible and inhuman."

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