MSF Volunteers Abducted in Liberia

Brussels/New York, August 12, 1999 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirms the abduction of two of their medical volunteers in northwest Liberia yesterday morning, August 11, 1999. Nurse Irene Martino and logistician Trond Heldaas were taken by armed persons and conducted to an unknown place. Four British aid workers with the humanitarian agencies Merlin and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) were also taken hostage at this time.

Irene Martino, 34, is a nurse from Italy who previously worked with MSF in southern Sudan. Trond Heldaas, 53, is a logistician from Norway who previously volunteered with MSF in Somalia. In Liberia, both volunteers are working with MSF to provide health care and water and sanitation to refugees from Sierra Leone.

"We have been in contact with our two colleagues yesterday through radio communication. They said they were both OK. No further information about their location has been given," said Peter Thesin, a spokesperson for MSF.

"Our volunteers are aware of this kind of risk," said Thesin. "We take all necessary precautions to avoid such hazardous situations, but even with our security precautions, these things can happen."

MSF has started negotiations together with Merlin and the IRC to secure the safety and release of the volunteers, but at this moment no further information can be given.

MSF is the world's largest independent international medical relief agency aiding victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters, and others who lack health care due to geographic remoteness or ethnic marginalization in more than 80 countries.