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UNHCR condemns kidnapping of four of its staff in Tajikistan

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UNHCR condemns kidnapping of four of its staff in Tajikistan

6 February 1997

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today condemned the kidnappings of four UNHCR staff members and 12 others, including U.N. observers, relief workers and journalists in Tajikistan.

In a statement issued in Geneva, High Commissioner Sadako Ogata urged the government of Tajikistan to do its utmost in securing the immediate release of the hostages. The United Nations Mission of Observation in Tajikistan and the International Committee of the Red Cross have issued similar appeals.

"We deplore the kidnappings in the strongest possible terms,"said Mrs. Ogata. "The abductions of the UNHCR workers today took place in broad daylight in Dushanbe during regular working hours. They were being transported out of the city, past government checkpoints. The incident regrettably indicates the serious deterioration in the security situation for UNHCR and other international workers."

The latest spate of kidnappings in Tajikistan began on Tuesday when armed men seized five UNMOT observers. On Wednesday, two ICRC delegates and five journalists were kidnapped. No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. The abducted UNHCR workers included one international staff from Nigeria, a local security guard and two drivers.

UNHCR has learned that the victims, including the four UNHCR staff members, had been taken to Obigarm, 80 km east of Dushanbe, a stronghold of an armed opposition group believed responsible for the kidnappings. Representatives of UNMOT and ICRC are meeting with high-level officials in Tajikistan on measures to secure the release of the hostages.

This is the first time that UNHCR workers have been abducted in Tajikistan, where a civil conflict has been ongoing since 1993. UNHCR has been caring for Tajik returnees from Afghanistan and Afghan refugees in Tajikistan.