A New York Times journalist who has been tracking a New Zealand nurse kidnapped by ISIS for five-and-a-half years says she may be in a camp in northern Syria.
Red Cross nurse Louisa Akavi, 62, was among seven people abducted in 2013 while delivering medical supplies near Idlib, north western Syria. ISIS had sought a ransom of up to $33 million for her return.
The last credible information on her whereabouts, late last year, was that she had been in Al-Susah and Al-Bukamal, near the Iraqi border.
But she has not been located even after the fall of the last ISIS stronghold in Syria just weeks ago.
Journalist Rukmini Callimachi, three-times Pulitzer Prize finalist, today told 1 NEWS Ms Akavi could possibly be in a camp that now houses more than 70,000 people.
“One possibility is that Louisa is in this camp in northern Syria where the tens of thousands of ISIS wives, children and supporters have been taken after the last little bit of territory under ISIS rule in the country fell to American-backed forces,” Ms Callimachi said.
“The Red Cross told us that just last month they sent their president - so really one of their most senior officials - to the camp to spend several days there and specifically to raise the Red Cross flag to make it very visible so that if she is feeling threatened she can at least see the flag and find a way to approach it.”
Rescue missions for hostages are very risky, Ms Callimachi said.
“The US did one in July of 2014 to try and get out the American hostages Kayla Mueller and James Foley. They did not get the hostages, and partly in retaliation the group began beheading the American and British hostages.”
In 2014, the Red Cross learned Ms Akavi was being detained in Raqqa, sharing a cell with American aid worker Kayla Muelller, and across from them was American journalist James Foley. Both Americans were later killed.
Louisa Akavi's health at the time was poor.
“I've interviewed two girls who at one point were placed in the women's cell. And they told me that she was quite sick and spent most of her day lying down and couldn't get up off the mattress that was on the floor of their cell,” Ms Callimachi said.
Ms Akavi’s ordeal has been kept secret for years, including by 1 NEWS, because of concerns for her safety.
But with the collapse of ISIS in recent weeks, the Red Cross has broken its silence, hoping publicity will help the organisation find her.