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Taleban Forces Flee Kabul With Foreign Aid Workers - 2001-11-13

Taleban forces fleeing the Afghan capital, Kabul, reportedly have taken with them eight foreign aid workers who they have been holding since early August on charges of spreading Christianity. U.S. officials say they have heard nothing about the condition of the aid workers now that their captors have abandoned Kabul.

For the past five weeks, the two Americans, four Germans and two Australians have been confined to a detention center in Kabul, enduring American bombing and nearby fighting between the ruling Taleban and the approaching Northern Alliance.

The father of American detainee Heather Mercer, John Mercer, has said he has been told that fleeing Taleban forces took the eight aid workers with them as they abandoned the Afghan capital late Monday. "From what I've been told, they were removed last night from the detention center at about midnight, put on a truck and driven to Kandahar," he said.

Neither the United States nor the German-based Shelter Now aid group, which sent the eight to Afghanistan, has any word on their fate. Shelter Now deputy director Joe Jaeger has said he is not optimistic about the apparent arrival of the opposition Northern Alliance in Kabul. "Before the Taleban came, the Northern Alliance was in Kabul and they were also killing other people," he said.

The United States is calling on the Northern Alliance to refrain from retaliation and instead establish a respect for human life.