KABUL -- Two female foreign aid workers kidnapped last month were freed, along with two local Afghans, in a joint special forces operation in northeastern Afghanistan.
Five Taliban kidnappers were killed after the special forces stormed a cave in Badakhshan Province on Friday night.
Briton Helen Johnson and Kenyan Moragwe Oirere -- colleagues at Swiss-based charity Medair -- were freed unharmed along with two Afghan civilians after they were taken hostage May 22.
None of the special forces soldiers were injured in the assault.
A statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said, "This [Saturday] morning's mission, conducted by coalition forces, exemplifies our collective and unwavering commitment to defeat the Taliban. I'm extremely grateful to the Afghan authorities and proud of the ISAF forces that planned, rehearsed and successfully conducted this operation. Thanks to them, Ms. Helen Johnston, Ms. Moragwe Oirere and their two coworkers will soon be rejoining their families and loved ones."
British Prime Minister David Cameron praised the forces' bravery and said the decision was made after increasing concern over the hostages' welfare.
He said, "It was an extraordinarily brave, breathtaking even, operation that our troops had to carry out, and I pay tribute to their incredible skill and dedication. They [terrorists] should know, if they take British citizens as hostage, we do not pay ransoms, we do not trade prisoners, they can expect a swift and brutal end."
The two women -- both doctors -- were snatched at gunpoint as they left a village in Badakhshan where they were working to combat malnutrition among women and children in the region.
In August 2010, ten members of the International Assistance Mission were killed in the same province. They included six Americans, a Briton and a German.
A month later, Scottish aid worker Linda Norgrove was kidnapped in neighboring Kunar Province. She was accidentally killed by a grenade after US troops went in to rescue her.
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