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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

American Aid Worker Kidnapped in Chechnya

A U.S. aid worker was kidnapped in Chechnya and another slightly wounded after gunmen, apparently separatist rebels, attacked their cars, federal officials and aid workers said Wednesday.

International aid group M?decins Sans Fronti?res said the kidnap victim was Kenny Gluck, its main representative in Russia. The other American worked for Action Contre La Faim, or Action Against Hunger. Officials originally identified the second man as Jonathan Lited, but Interfax later reported his name as Jonathan Littell, citing sources at MSF’s Moscow office.

"MSF is extremely concerned about the fate of its colleague and is outraged at this direct attack on a clearly marked humanitarian convoy that was delivering medical assistance to the Chechen population," the organization said in a statement.

"MSF urges that whoever may be holding their colleague will respect his physical and mental integrity and will release him unharmed."

Federal officials said a search had been launched and criticized the aid workers for entering Chechnya. The Foreign Ministry said an investigation was under way.

MSF said the convoy had been run by MSF — Doctors Without Borders in English — and Action Against Hunger, with international and Russian workers.

"The MSF worker was forced out of his car into the attackers’ car, which then disappeared. The remaining national and international staff managed to get away safely after the attack," the MSF statement said.

The gunmen opened fire on the vehicles Tuesday near the town of Stary Atagi, 20 kilometers south of Grozny.

An official from the office of the Kremlin’s Chechnya spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said by telephone that Gluck was seized with three Chechens who were accompanying him.

"The first [car] managed to escape from the shooting but Lited was slightly wounded in the head. … His life is not threatened."

Action Contre La Faim said one of their workers had escaped from an ambush Tuesday but declined to name him.

The federal commander in Chechnya, Lieutenant General Ivan Babichev, said a search was underway for the kidnap victim. "The republic’s security forces and special services have begun an active operation to find this foreigner," Interfax quoted him as saying.

"In the near future we will probably get a ransom demand or the criminals will demand some kind of guarantee for themselves in exchange for [his] life and freedom."

The Foreign Ministry said no request for aid had come from the U.S. Embassy but said it was following the situation.

"As is usual in such cases, an investigation is being carried out," a ministry spokesman said.

Babichev said the groups bore some blame as they were in Chechnya without permission or escort. Yastrzhembsky’s office went further, describing their actions as a "flagrant violation" of rules on access to Chechnya for foreigners.

One officer said in televised remarks that the kidnappers belonged to a group of rebels under a field commander called Akhmadov, although Babichev did not confirm this.

Karina Syomina and Daniel Mclaughlin contributed to this report.