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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 00:06 GMT
Western aid workers released
Darul Tadeeb school/Taleban guards
The arrested aid workers had been held at a Kabul school
Eight Western aid workers detained by the Taleban have been released, according to US officials.


They are in safe hands and they're on their way to Pakistan

US official
The eight - two Americans, two Australians and four Germans - were reportedly airlifted out of the country by a US military helicopter, and are reported to be en route to Pakistan.

An anonymous US source said they had been freed as a result of military action.

The foreign detainees
Heather Mercer, US
Dana Curry, US
Margrit Stebnar, Germany
George Taubmann, Germany
Kati Jelinek, Germany
Silke Duerrkopf, Germany
Peter Bunch , Australia
Diana Thomas, Australia

The eight had been detained by the Taleban on suspicion of preaching Christianity, a charge they denied.

They had been moved from Kabul to Kandahar as the Taleban abandoned the capital in the face of the Northern Alliance advance.

The eight all worked for the German Christian charity, Shelter Now International.

They had been arrested in early August, along with 16 local workers.

Their position had become considerably more perilous following the start of US-led military action against the Taleban in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

Washington had demanded that the Taleban release the eight unconditionally.

They have been the only foreign aid workers left inside Taleban-controlled Afghanistan.

Taleban officials have said they will protect the Westerners in the event of any American attack.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Leyne reports from Washington
"When the Taleban fled, they took their prisoners with them"
See also:

29 Sep 01 | South Asia
Kabul aid workers trial delayed
13 Sep 01 | South Asia
Detained Afghan aid workers left behind
05 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban 'may execute' aid workers
01 Sep 01 | South Asia
Foreign volunteers leave Kabul
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