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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tajikistan Hunts for 2 French, Red Cross Decides to Cut Staff

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Tajikistan said Thursday it was doing all it could to free two French nationals abducted in the capital, Dushanbe, but acknowledged in had no clue about the kidnappers' plans or whereabouts.


A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said the organization, worried by a series of abductions, had decided to reduce the number of its staff in the ex-Soviet republic.


He said the decision had been made by the ICRC headquarters in Geneva, but declined to say how many delegates are currently working in Tajikistan and how big the staff reduction would be.


In February this year, the Red Cross took the same measures after a maverick armed band kidnapped several foreign UN personnel and Russian journalists. The ICRC resumed its activities in April.


In the latest wave of violence against foreigners, a French married couple was kidnapped in the center of Dushanbe late Tuesday.


The man worked for the European Union's TACIS aid program in the Central Asian republic while the woman worked for the UN refugee agency.


Tajikistan's government held an urgent meeting jointly with officials from the local UN mission and said it was doing all it could to free the couple.


"Both the president and the prime minister consider the liberation of the French citizens their primary task," presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said.


Saidov said the abduction might reflect poorly on the country at a conference of donor states in Vienna scheduled for Nov. 24-25. The meeting will discuss financial aid to Tajikistan, which has been ravaged by a bitter civil war.


"It is necessary to free the kidnapped pair before the start of the Vienna conference," he said.


But officials could not say which forces the kidnappers might represent or what their plans and demands might be.