Turkish NGO rescues 2 Czech women kidnapped by al-Qaeda in 2013

Turkish NGO rescues 2 Czech women kidnapped by al-Qaeda in 2013

VAN – Anadolu Agency
Turkish NGO rescues 2 Czech women kidnapped by al-Qaeda in 2013

Antonie Chrastecka (L) and Hana Humpalova. AA photo

Two Czech women who were kidnapped by an al-Qaeda-linked armed group in Pakistan have been freed, after the Turkey-based Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) worked to secure their release.

Antonie Chrastecka and Hana Humpalova, both 27, were in Pakistan as tourists on a world tour in 2013 when they were seized near Taftan by armed militants as they were crossing the border from Iran.

The two women finally arrived in the eastern Turkish province of Van late on March 27 after two months of “intense” talks, according to İzzet Şahin, the IHH official leading the negotiations with the women’s kidnappers.

Şahin said the families of the victims contacted the İHH two months ago as a last resort after exhausting all other means to save the pair.

“We put into use every tool at our disposal to get them back. We delivered them to their families safely  today,” said Şahin, the head of the IHH’s International Relations and Humanitarian Diplomacy department, in an interview with Anadolu Agency. 

“Antonie and Hana were captives for two years, which were very difficult for them,” he added.

Humpalova said they still do not know why they were taken. “It was very difficult. For the first time in our lives we saw weapons and armed men. We still do not know why we were taken. There were weapons being fired and bombs exploding all the time. But we got used to it after a while,” she said.

“We had plenty of time to do a lot of thinking. We thought about our children and families and kept our hopes up that one day we would be rescued. Now, for the first time in two years we have saw the sun and smiling people around us,” Humpalova added.

“I still can’t believe I am here. Even now, I fear this is a dream,” Chrastecka told Anadolu Agency, saying the worst part of her captivity was being away from her family.

“Being away from my family was really tough. From the first moment I was kidnapped, I wanted to be with them. I am so happy right now and so excited,” Chrastecka said.

The two women and their families have now departed Turkey for the Czech Republic.

In videos previously released by the captors, the women read a request to release Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist serving a 86-year sentence in a U.S. prison. Islamic militants in Syria, Algeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have made Siddiqui’s release a condition for freeing certain foreign hostages. 

The women were kidnapped by armed assailants who overpowered their bodyguard in March 2013 in Pakistan’s western Baluchistan province, while travelling from Iran to India.

The İHH became better known in Turkey in May 2010 after it organized the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” trying to break the Israeli blockade on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip at the time. Israeli commandos killed eight Turkish nationals and an American of Turkish origin in a raid on the “Mavi Marmara,” which was part of the flotilla. Another person on board at the time of the raid died in a Turkish hospital in 2014 after being in coma for almost four years.