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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 April, 2004, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Dutch aid worker freed in Russia
Arjan Erkel
There has been no ransom demand for Erkel
A Dutch medical aid worker taken hostage by gunmen near Chechnya in August 2002 has been released.

Arjan Erkel, of the relief organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), was freed in the southern Russian province of Dagestan.

A Russian official in Dagestan said he had been rescued in a raid by security forces in the early hours of Sunday.

Mr Erkel has been taken to the capital of Dagestan, Makhachkala. MSF says he is in "reasonably good health".

Official line

Mr Erkel was bundled into a car by three gunmen in Makhachkala on 12 August 2002.

The Russian authorities at the time blamed gangsters.

But MSF said the official line was questionable because no ransom request was made.

The group later accused Dagestan and federal officials of being involved in kidnappings in the region.

It said Russia was trying to intimidate critics of its operations in Chechnya.

MSF has suspended aid operations there several times because of kidnappings - notably after the abduction of regional head Kenny Gluck in January 2001.

Human rights groups say more than 400 people were abducted in the region last year.

Mr Erkel's father told Dutch news agency ANP he was relieved to hear of his son's release.

"We do not know how he is doing but we are very happy he has been freed," he said.

Russia accused over kidnappings
10 Mar 04  |  Europe
Charity anger over Russia kidnap
10 Mar 03  |  Europe
Aid worker abducted in Dagestan
13 Aug 02  |  Europe
Kidnap halts Chechnya aid work
29 Jul 02  |  Europe
Aid workers pull out of Chechnya
11 Jan 01  |  Europe

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