Four aid workers kidnapped in Afghanistan last month were freed by NATO forces this morning.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it rescued the four hostages, all employees of Swiss NGO Medair, in an early-morning raid in northern Afghanistan.
Helen Johnston of the UK, Moragwe Oirere of Kenya and two of their Afghan colleagues were kidnapped on May 22 in Badakhshan province.
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The captives were being held in a cave by a group armed with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s when coalition forces flew in by helicopter to free them, spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings told the Associated Press.
He said they appeared to be in good health. A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office told the BBC that Johnston, 28, and Oirere, 26, were being looked after by the British Embassy in Kabul, while the two Afghan nationals were returning to their families in Badakhshan.
ISAF believes their abductors had links to the Taliban. The governor of Badakhshan, Shah Waliullah Adeb, told the Guardian that the hostage-takers were a mix of Taliban sympathizers, drug smugglers and common criminals, who were demanding a $4-million ransom for the aid workers' release.
Afghan officials told the AP that seven of the captors were killed in the raid.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who authorized the operation along with the head of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, General John R. Allen, hailed the rescue as "extraordinarily brave, breathtaking even."
According to the UK Press Association, Cameron said it was a warning to terrorists the world over that "if they take British citizens as hostage we do not pay ransoms, we do not trade prisoners. They can expect a swift and brutal end."
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