8 foreign aid workers freed in Afghanistan

By George Gedda

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Eight foreign aid workers held by the Taliban militia since August for preaching Christianity in Afghanistan were freed today and were headed to Pakistan, a U.S. official said. Two of the eight are Americans.

A second U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were freed as a result of military action, but would give no details.

The disclosure came after the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said he was confident the eight would be released soon.

Seif el-Islam Gadhafi, chairman of the Gadhafi Foundation for Charitable Organizations, told The Associated Press that his nongovernmental organization has been in touch with the Taliban for about two months in efforts to win their freedom.

“I believe that the Taliban will release these people in the near future,” he said in a statement to the AP made through Libya’s consulate in Vienna.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said he hopes the reports are true but could not confirm them. He said U.S. officials had received no word from the Taliban as to the whereabouts of the Americans or on whether they will be released.

Although the United States accuses Libya of sponsoring terrorism, and recently extended sanctions against foreign companies suspected of doing business with the North African nation, Washington suspended sanctions against Libya itself in 1999.

The suspension came after Libya handed over two officials for trial on charges of planting the bomb that downed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The attack killed 270 people, including 179 Americans.

The eight workers – four Germans, two Americans and two Australians – are employees of the Germany-based Christian organization Shelter Now International. They have been held since Aug. 3 on charges of trying to convert Muslims, a serious offense in Islamic Afghanistan.

Taliban Supreme Court judges had indefinitely postponed their trial, saying they feared anger at the United States over the airstrikes could hamper their ability to make a fair ruling in the case.

On Tuesday, the eight were moved from their cells in a detention center in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and were taken to the south by retreating Taliban forces.

Jimmy Seibert, senior pastor at the Texas church attended by the two Americans, Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry, said he had not received word on when the women would be released.

“Our hope is that they will be released in the next couple of days,” Seibert said today at a news conference at Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas.

In Nashville, Tenn., Curry’s stepmother, Sue Fuller, told a reporter she had not heard officially of her stepdaughter’s impending release.

“I’m so excited that we’re going to see her soon and that she’s safe,” Fuller said. “I just think you know she trusted that God would take care of her and get her out of there safely, and it’s happened.”

Gadhafi’s son said his foundation made contact with the Taliban “with the aim of finding a solution for these people through third-party mediation,” and that the effort was bearing fruit “because of the good standing the foundation enjoys in this area.”

He said his group was working “to try to visit these people in order to convey letters and messages from them to their families,” adding: “As far as I know, they are all in good health.”

Joachim Jaeger, co-chairman of Shelter Now, told the AP today that the organization had not yet been contacted by Gadhafi’s son or his foundation.

But Jaeger said he welcomed any nonviolent assistance in winning the freedom of the eight. “We are thankful for everything that helps, of course, as long as it’s peaceful,” he said.

Germany’s foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, played down a German newspaper report today suggesting that his government had information from foreign intelligence agencies indicating the eight were already on their way back to Kabul.

“I have no new information to report on the status of the jailed Shelter Now workers,” Fischer told reporters.

Libya is anxious to improve its standing with the West, and last year, it was involved in freeing all but one of 21 Western tourists and Asian workers kidnapped by rebels in the Philippines.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

1 pedestrian dead after car crash on I-5 south of Marysville

Around 5 p.m., a car crashed into a pedestrian along I-5. Investigators believed a man had parked on the shoulder to refuel.

FILE - A person walks near the Legislative Building, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Washington's redistricting commission failed to meet its deadline and on Tuesday, Nov. 16, kicked the job of creating new political maps to the state Supreme Court. The bipartisan commission had a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Monday to approve new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts following the 2020 census. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Do Snohomish County lawmakers want a 2020 presidential rematch?

The Herald contacted seven Republican legislators representing parts of Snohomish County about their primary choice. Five did not respond.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

Photo provided by 
Economic Alliance
Economic Alliance presented one of the Washington Rising Stem Awards to Katie Larios, a senior at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Mountlake Terrace High School senior wins state STEM award

Katie Larios was honored at an Economic Alliance gathering: “A champion for other young women of color in STEM.”

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

Firefighters respond to a report of a smoke alarm going off in the 100 block of West Main Street in Monroe on Monday morning. Fire officials confirmed the fire was coming from living quarters above Good Brewing Co. (Provided by Snohomish County Regional Fire and Rescue).
Fire damages apartment above Monroe brewery

Good Brewing Co. on West Main Street was listed as permanently closed Monday.

Tom Ceurvorst picks up his food order at Big Chicken on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Free ice cream Wednesday for Shaq’s birthday at Big Chicken in Mukilteo

Sign a card for the NBA Hall of Famer and restaurant founder. Shaquille O’Neal turns 52 on March 6.

A table setting inside the Grouchy Chef on Sunday, March 3, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington.(Annie Barker / The Herald)
Mukilteo’s one-of-a-kind Grouchy Chef is hanging up his apron

Takayuki Masumoto, “who absolutely brooks no nonsense from his patrons,” is looking for a buyer. Name not included.

Flowers for slain trooper Chris Gadd begin to collect outside Washington State Patrol District 7 Headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Police: Lynnwood man consumed cannabis, beer before crash into trooper

Trooper Chris Gadd, 27, was stopped along I-5 when he was hit and killed early Saturday. Troopers suspect Raul Benitez Santana was impaired.

Madi Humphries, 9, Rose Austin, 13, and Eirene Ritting, 8, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No grades, no teachers: Inside a Bothell school run by student vote

Each day at The Clearwater School, 60 students choose their own lessons. It’s one vote per person, whether you’re staff or student.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.