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A Stoke Newington woman held hostage in Afghanistan along with 3 other aid workers, was freed after a daring night time raid on cave in remote north west Afghanistan.
Helen Johnston along with her Kenyan colleague Moragwa Oirere and two Afghan civilians, are all employees of Medair, a Swiss based humanitarian NGO in Luassane. The group were abducted on May 22 while traveling by donkey, to grief stricken area in northern Badakhshan province. A fifth hostage escaped shortly after the group was captured.
Before their rescue, their captors armed with machine gun rifles and rocket propelled grenades, moved them from cave to cave to avoid detection.
A nutritionist, Helen Johnston studied at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, prior to taking up her position in Afghanistan.
Her parents Philip and Patricia along with her brother Peter, released a statement saying; “We are delighted and hugely relieved by the wonderful news that Helen and all her colleagues have been freed. We are deeply grateful to everyone involved in her rescue, to those who worked tirelessly on her behalf, and to family and friends for their love, prayers and support over the last twelve days.”
In an interview with the Evening Standard last November, Helen spoke of her life and work in Afghanistan, describing it as tough and grueling. “It can be frustrating and hard, but there is no doubt that there is a fundamental need for us to be here. Too many children are suffering for us not to be,” she was quoted saying.
David Cameron who along with the commander of Nato and US forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen authorized the raid said “It was an extraordinarily brave, breath-taking even, operation that our troops had to carry out. I pay tribute to their skill and dedication”.
Ms Johnston is reported to be safe at the British Embassy in Kabul.