Foreign aid workers from two humanitarian aid organizations have left Afghanistan, one day after their offices were shut down by Taleban authorities who say the aid workers were involved in preaching Christianity. Two U.S. women jailed on the same charge in Kabul were allowed a rare family visit on Saturday.
Foreign aid workers from the U.S. based International Assistance Mission, known as IAM, and the international aid group SERVE crossed the border into Pakistan after being given 72 hours to leave Afghanistan on Friday. IAM officials have been working in Afghanistan since 1965.
Taleban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil said the two groups were expelled after an investigation found their members were preaching Christianity. The Taleban investigation began after 24 members of another aid group, Shelter Now, were detained nearly one month ago on the same charges. Taleban authorities are holding eight foreigners and 16 Afghans who work for Shelter Now and say they will stand trial once the investigation is completed.
The parents of two U.S. women who work for Shelter Now visited their daughters on Saturday. They were accompanied by a U.S. diplomat.
Taleban officials say their investigation into the activities of aid groups operating in Afghanistan is nearly complete and no other groups are expected to be accused of spreading Christianity.
The crime for such activities in Afghanistan is jail and expulsion for foreigners, and a possible death sentence for Afghans.
Taleban authorities have long complained that international aid groups are interfering in Afghan affairs, but this is the first time since the Taleban militia seized most of Afghanistan five years ago, that large numbers aid workers have been arrested or expelled for activities alleged to violate the Taleban's strict interpretation of Islamic law.