Family's plea for New Zealand nurse held by Isis

New Zealand Defence Force

New Zealand Defence Force

It's been revealed Louisa Akavi, who was taken by Isis had her identity hidden in fear she would be killed by her captors.

But with victory declared over IS weeks ago, her whereabouts are still unknown and the International Committee of the Red Cross have made an appeal for information that could help find Louisa, Alaa and Nabil.

The New York Times has reported the Red Cross has reason to believe she is alive, because at least two people described seeing her in December at a clinic in Sousa, one of the final villages to be held by IS jihadists.

The last credible sighting was in December previous year, he said.

Foreign Affairs (MFAT) Minister Winston Peters said Ms Akavi's case was "uniquely complex and difficult", and "everything possible" had been done by this and the previous government to get her back. "This has been a uniquely complex and hard case. That is exactly what we have done here", Peters said.

"This has involved members of the New Zealand Defence Force, drawn from the Special Operations Force, and personnel have visited Syria from time to time as required", he said.

"This non-combat team was specifically focused on locating Louisa and identifying opportunities to recover her", Mr Peters said.

By August 2013, she was listed as working in Damascus, Syria. It is believed she was offered for ransom and may have been used as a human shield.

The Government is continuing to work on the basis that Akavi is still alive, but disagreed with the decision to name Akavi publicly.

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Ms Akavi's ordeal has been kept secret for years, including by 1 NEWS, because of concerns for her safety.

A spokesman for Akavi's family, Tuaine Robati, said she knew the dangers she faced. But no-one can know what she experienced, and what her mental state is now.

Ardern said that this position was made clear to the ICRC, but the ICRC, which took the initial lead in efforts to find Akavi, chose to make a public plea for information.

Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the ICRC, said the organization had made a decision to permit publication in the hope it would elicit new information on her whereabouts. "With Islamic State group (ISg) having lost the last of its territory, we felt it was now time to speak out".

It is believed she has been held by Islamic State since October 2013, and the last credible information that she is still alive came late previous year from the group's last redoubt in the eastern Syrian desert.

Akavi is of Cook Islands descent and lives in Otaki, a small town north of Wellington.

Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the ICRC, said staying silent for five years has not been easy. "That has been, and remains, paramount in progressing efforts to find her". Negotiations in 2013 and 2014 were not successful. It would be the second attempt to free her after a failed attempt in 2014 by US Navy SEALs.

"When I woke up this morning and I saw that that was the information that came out of New Zealand, I was slightly surprised". "If our colleagues are still being held, we call for their immediate and unconditional release", the ICRC said in a statement.

The government's thoughts were with the family, he said.

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