BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Armed militia fighters abducted a foreign U.N. staffer near the capital's airport on Tuesday and then released her hours later in the second rare kidnapping of an international aid worker this week.
The U.N. announced the safe release of the Kurdish female U.N. staffer not long after the militia group said it had freed her from their custody.
"She's now been released and she's either back in the hands of the U.N. or on the way back to the U.N. So she's safely released and we're obviously very pleased," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York.
Her abduction comes only a day after another attack by the anti-Balaka on two aid workers just north of the capital, including a 67-year-old French woman who remains missing.
Central African Republic, a long near-anarchic group, exploded into sectarian violence about a year ago following the violent reign of a Muslim rebel coalition later forced from power. The Christian anti-Balaka fighters who emerged to combat them also have been blamed for scores of attacks and human rights abuses.
Yet even amid violence that has left more than 5,000 people dead, attacks have rarely been directed at foreigners except for those with the French military and the other African armies taking part in the U.N. peacekeeping mission.
The new rash of kidnappings by the anti-Balaka fighters comes after the Saturday arrest of their widely feared commander, Rodrigue Ngaibona, whose alias is Andilo.
The French woman, who was working for a Catholic medical organization, was kidnapped along with a local co-worker when the fighters seized their vehicle full of medicine and medical kits, according to their driver Elkana Ndawatcha.
"Me, I was released after being stripped of everything I had, my telephone, my bank documents and money," he said. "One of the kidnappers took my place in the vehicle."
France's Foreign Ministry confirmed a 67-year-old French woman was kidnapped Monday in Central African Republic and said that the archbishop's office in Bangui was in contact with her abductors.
Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.