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Chad kidnapping: Polish doctor rescued after helicopter comes under attack

In Europe
February 14, 2024

A Polish doctor abducted in Chad has been saved after a dramatic night-time rescue, reports say.

Kidnappers in the central African nation fired at a helicopter attempting to rescue Aleksandra Kuligowska.

She was abducted on Friday near the southern town of Dono Manga.

Armed men accompanying a fake patient seized the doctor from the hospital where she worked, news agency AFP says, citing a Chadian governor.

Ms Kuligowska, a volunteer at the hospital run by Catholic charity Caritas, was then held hostage for five days in a dense forest around 10km (six miles) from Dono Manga, state platform Djarma Media reports.

The doctor was rescued at 03:00 local time (02:00 GMT), the report says, in what authorities describe as a joint operation by French and Chadian forces.

“When the helicopter flew overhead, the kidnappers came out to try to shoot down the helicopter, leaving the hostage alone,” local governor Ildjima Abdraman was quoted as saying by AFP.

“While our ground troops advanced, they managed to rescue the hostage. All the kidnappers were killed. There were three of them.”

Ms Kuligowska was taken to the capital, N’Djamena, by helicopter, with Djarma Media describing her as “weakened and traumatised” but well.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said on X, formerly Twitter: “She is safe and healthy, which I have told those close to her by telephone. I thank local forces and our French allies for their actions.”

Poland’s Defence Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz on X gave his “utmost thanks” to his French counterpart and the French troops, adding that Ms Kuligowska would return to Poland “soon”.

She had been seized with a Mexican colleague, named by state media as Carlos.

The pair were whisked away from the St Michel hospital on motorbikes, but the kidnappers left Carlos at the roadside after security forces gave chase.

No group has said it was behind the doctors’ kidnapping.

Armed bandits frequently kidnap Chadians for ransom in the region, about 400km (250 miles) south of N’Djamena.

According to AFP, a spokesperson for the French forces stationed in the Sahel confirmed that Chadian forces had carried out the rescue but refused to say what part French soldiers played.

France has long had a military presence in the West African countries it once colonised and over the past decade its troops have participated in an anti-jihadist operation in the Sahel.

However, following a string of coups from 2022 onwards, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have expelled French soldiers from their countries.

Despite experiencing a military takeover itself, Chad is home to around 1,000 French troops.

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