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American Aid Workers Tell Of Escape From Afghanistan

Two American women who are Christian aid workers said their escape from Afghanistan was a miracle after three months of detention in Taleban jails. The two said they were well treated by their Taleban captors but there were many times they feared for their lives.

Dana Curry and Heather Mercer who work for the Christian based aid group Shelter Now said they had nearly given up hope early Tuesday after being moved from Kabul to the town of Ghazni by their Taleban captors.

Fearing an imminent move to the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar, the women and their six colleagues said they were amazed when Taleban control collapsed in Ghazni. Heather Mercer said the experience is one she will never forget. "That was the most amazing thing I've ever seen," she said. "To come into a country and be taken captive by one government and then to walk out of prison a free person under a new government, to see a city changed in just a moment. The women had taken off their burqa's (veils). All of the villagers were out in the streets cheering. To see people out in the streets, playing music, shooting off their guns with great rejoicing. I really believe a good day will come for Afghanistan, and it really was a precious time to be a part of that."

Heather Mercer, Dana Curry and six other foreigners who work for Shelter Now were detained in early August by the Taleban and accused of trying to convert Afghans to Christianity, a serious crime under Taleban law.

16 Afghans who work for Shelter Now were also detained. The Afghan detainees were freed after Northern Alliance forces took control of Kabul. Asked about the charges Friday both the women said 80 percent of the charges against them were false. Dana Curry said she believes the 20 percent that were true were relatively minor offenses.

"That we had been in an Afghan home and that I'd given a book to someone that was in both Farsi and in English and to them. I made a copy of it, and the little boy asked for it and I could not give it away because I used it for language learning," she said. "But I made a copy of it and gave it to them, and this had a story about Jesus in it. Also we had showed them part of the Jesus film and that was also true."

Following what they describe as their "miraculous" escape from the Ghazni jail, the eight Shelter Now workers were put under the protection of a local commander who contacted the International Committee of the Red Cross. Late Wednesday the eight were moved to a field outside Ghazni where they burned some of their clothes to guide U.S. Special Forces to where they were standing. Just a few hours later they were reunited with their families in Pakistan.

Both women said despite the hardships they endured over the last three months, they will value the experience for the rest of their lives. Heather Mercer said she considers herself lucky. "The last three and a half months have probably been the greatest terror of my live but it has also been the greatest privilege of my life," she said. "And I would never trade it for the world, because I know coming out not only am I changed, but a nation is changed."

Both Heather Mercer and Dana Curry said they want to continue working with Afghans, especially Afghan women. They said they look forward to making sure that young girls who used to come to them, begging to be taught how to read, but forbidden to do so by the Taleban, will now get the chance to learn how to read.