International coalition officials say NATO special forces have freed four female aid workers held by militants in a cave in northern Afghanistan.
The NATO-led ISAF force said the hostages, including two foreign women doctors -- a British and a Kenyan -- and two Afghan colleagues, were rescued in a pre-dawn raid on June 2 after being held by militants in the cave.
The victims had been kidnapped at gunpoint on May 22 in Badakhshan province while traveling on horseback to relief-project sites in the remote and mountainous area of northeastern Afghanistan.
Afghan officials said the kidnappers were holding their victims for ransom.
The four work for Medair, a humanitarian nongovernmental organization based in Switzerland.
U.S. General John Allen, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, said that coalition forces conducted the rescue mission with the support of the Afghan Interior Ministry.
Speaking after the release of the four aid workers, the deputy governor of Badakhshan Province, Shamsul Rahman Shams, told reporters that seven Taliban insurgents were killed during the operation, which he said had been carried out by "Afghan intelligence, Afghan security forces, and foreign troops in the area where the hostages were being held."
Shams said the hostages had been held in Gulati, a village in Shahri Buzurg district, near the Tajikistan border.
The aid workers appeared to be in good health.
In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron praised the "brave and breathtaking" rescue, which he said was carried out by British troops.
He suggested that the rescue should serve as a warning to terrorists across the world who take British citizens hostage.
"They should know if they take British citizens as hostage we do not pay ransoms," he said. "We do not trade prisoners. They can expect a swift and brutal end."
Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP