Louisa Akavi: No surprise Government was tight-lipped - expert

It's no surprise the Government is staying tight-lipped over the kidnapping of a New Zealand nurse in Syria, an international relations expert says.

Louisa Akavi, 46, was kidnapped by the Islamic State (IS) in 2013 and may have been sighted in December.

University of Otago Professor Robert Patman told Newshub the official message is clear.

"I think for some time New Zealand's Government has been very careful not to do anything that would compromise its efforts to enable Louisa Akavi to return to New Zealand."

The Red Cross released Akavi's name on Monday despite fears it would lead to her execution. Foreign Minister Winston Peters said Akavi was in great danger.

"In these situations the priority must be the safety of the hostage and we received clear advice that any publicity would place Louisa at even greater risk," he said in a statement.

Prof Patman said there was renewed hope in finding Akavi due to IS's recent losses on the battlefield.

"What's happened, of course, in recent months is that Islamic State has effectively lost their territorial base that they had in Syria."

He said violence in Syria will mean a lot of displaced people.

Two people told the Red Cross they had been treated by Akavi at a clinic in Sousa, a village in east Syria overrun by international forces earlier this year, the New York Times reports.

Akavi is a veteran aid worker, and in 1996 she narrowly survived a massacre in Chechnya in which six of her Red Cross colleagues were gunned down in their sleep.