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Saturday, 1 September, 2001, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Foreign volunteers leave Kabul
Afghan children beggars surround a vehicle of aid workers leaving their NGO office in Kabul on Saturday
Children surround the van of departing aid workers
International workers for two aid agencies have begun leaving Afghanistan under an ultimatum issued by the Taleban authorities.

Most have gone by road to Pakistan and the remainder are preparing to do so.

David Brooks of Partners in Aviation and Communications Technology, leaves his office with an unidentified woman
Six foreign workers of Partners in Aviation and Communications Technology have also left
Their departure comes a day after the Taleban ordered the two organisations, International Assistance Mission (IAM) and Serve, to close down their operations and leave within 72 hours.

No explanation was given, but the move follows the arrest last month of foreign and Afghan staff working for the Christian agency, Shelter Now International.

They face charges of preaching Christianity, which carries a possible death penalty under the Taleban's interpretation of Islamic law.

IAM and Serve

IAM, which runs two eye hospitals and several clinics, has been active in Afghanistan for more than 35 years. It has been operated by 50 mostly American expatriate workers.

Its foreign volunteers, most of them Pashtu and Persian speakers, have lived in Afghanistan with their families in some of the country's poorest neighbourhoods, without electricity or running water.

The BBC's Afghanistan correspondent Kate Clark says that IAM provides the best medical eye care in the country, taking surgeons and opticians with mobile clinics to the remotest districts so that people can get tests, glasses and simple operations.

It is also very highly regarded for its Aids work.

Serve, also a Christian organisation, is a smaller operation that provides solar panels as well as other shelter-related projects.

No surprise

The Taleban authorities had warned that they planned to expand their investigation of Shelter Now International to include other international aid organisations.

Six foreign workers of Partners in Aviation and Communications Technology, which is affiliated with IAM, have also left their offices in Kabul, saying it was "too dangerous to remain".

Earlier in the week, the Taleban said that the eight foreigners of Shelter Now International - two Americans, four Germans and two Australians - would go on trial for preaching Christianity.

BBC's Afghanistan Correspondent Kate Clark
says staff at aid agencies are shocked by the ultimatum
See also:

27 Aug 01 | South Asia
Jailed Kabul aid workers 'well'
26 Aug 01 | South Asia
Taleban softens stance
20 Aug 01 | South Asia
Last-ditch bid to see aid workers
18 Aug 01 | South Asia
Taleban advise diplomats to leave
17 Aug 01 | South Asia
Aid workers face Taleban justice
14 Aug 01 | South Asia
Taleban deny access to aid detainees
12 Aug 01 | South Asia
Taleban 'investigate' aid workers
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
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