The United States is again calling on the Taleban to release the eight international aid workers who had been on trial in Kabul on charges of spreading Christianity. Taleban members are reported to have taken the eight foreigners with them when they left the capital under pressure from the Northern Alliance.

There no official confirmation here of news reports the aid workers were evacuated by truck to Kandahar in the face of the Northern Alliance advance on Kabul. But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says U.S. officials are following developments in the case with deep concern. "We remain very concerned about the status and the welfare of our detainees of our Americans and the other foreigners being held," he said. "And once again we think it is very important for the Taleban to release them immediately."

The aid workers two Americans, four Germans and two Australians work for the German-based "Shelter Now" aid group and have been held since August on charges of preaching Christianity. A closed-door trial of the defendants six of them women began in early September before the Taleban's chief judge.