After four months spent in captivity following her kidnapping in Afghanistan, Australian aid worker Kerry Jane Wilson has been freed.
Officials said Monday that Ms. Wilson was freed by Afghan forces in a special operation in eastern Afghanistan. At least three suspects have been arrested, though authorities did not say who was responsible for the abduction. She was taken in April by two armed men from her office in the eastern city of Jalalabad.
Wilson, who is in her sixties, has lived and worked in Afghanistan for about 20 years. Most recently, she's run Zardozi, a nongovernmental organization that helps impoverished Afghan women start their own businesses by selling items that they sew.
As Paige McClanahan reported for The Christian Science Monitor in 2013:
Working in Kabul and three other Afghan cities – Mazar, Jalalabad, and Herat – Zardozi offers women training on topics such as design, quality assurance, pricing, leadership skills, and business planning.
The organization – which is funded by the Dutch nonprofit group Oxfam Novib and the governments of Britain and Sweden – then connects the women with shopkeepers who buy their shirts, pants, pillowcases, and the like. Sometimes the organization offers the women small loans, as little as $100, to help them expand their fledgling businesses. In return, the women pay a membership fee of just $1 per month.
In an interview with the Monitor at the time, Wilson compared the women she works with to "prisoners who have just gotten out of jail," explaining that many are illiterate and have difficulty performing day-to-day tasks such as conversing with shopkeepers or navigating around their home city.
A former colleague of Wilson's told CNN that there had been "frantic worry" since Wilson was abducted in April, adding, "To hear the news this morning of her release and that she is safe and well is indescribable."
"I hope she returns to her family as soon as possible for much needed recuperation from her ordeal, and I also hope that she will consider returning to Afghanistan to continue her amazing work," the former-colleague said. "She is vital to the future of Afghanistan."
This report contains material from the Associated Press.