Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it was “deeply moved and delighted” after one of its nurses escaped unharmed from rebels who had held her hostage in eastern Congo for more than 13 months.
Chantal Kaghoma Vulinzole was abducted on July 11, 2013, along with three of her colleagues. The kidnapping took place during an attack on the village of Kamango, in North Kivu, by the Ugandan rebel group ADF-NALU which is fighting government forces in lawless eastern Congo.
The nurse managed to flee while rebels were distracted by a military assault and was found, weak and thin, by Congolese government forces on Friday and returned safely to the nearby city of Beni.
The other three aid workers who were kidnapped with Vulinzole remain missing, despite efforts by the medical charity to secure their release.
“It is an immense relief for her family, her friends and all of her colleagues to know that she is alive and with us again,” said Mégo Terzian, president of MSF.
“We also want to believe that our three other colleagues – about whom we have no information – will also return. We are thinking of their families and of all the hostages. We will not forget you.”
MSF said it would continue in its search to find the remaining hostages, who it named as Philippe, Richard, and Romy.
“Chantal was separated from her three colleagues and was no longer in contact with them when she escaped,” said Benoît Leduc, of MSF in Paris. “Our search continues, with the ADF group now dispersed and, probably, disorganised.”
The Congolese government has said it plans to target foreign rebels operating in its eastern region after the defeat of the M23 rebel group late last year.
Although the Democratic Republic of Congo’s five-year war officially ended in 2003, the vast country, especially its mineral-rich east, is still plagued by violence and rebellion.