US warns Taliban on aid workers
WASHINGTON, Aug 7 (AFP) - The United States warned Afghanistan's Taliban rule rs on Tuesday to ensure the safety of two Americans among eight foreigners arrested in Kabul and charged under Islamic law with preaching Christianity.
Despite asking the ultra-fundamentalist militia for details on the charges and health of the detainees, US officials have yet to hear back any details, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
"It's incumbent upon the Taliban to treat these people safely and fairly and to let us see after their welfare," he said.
"We're pulling every lever and pushing every button that we can to try to get information, to try to see to the welfare of these people."
US diplomats in Islamabad have requested details through Taliban representatives, and a US consular officer has requested a visa to visit Kabul to see them, he said.
The eight foreigners -- two Americans, two Australians and four Germans -- were among 24 staff of the Shelter Now aid group rounded up over the weekend for allegedly preaching Christianity, decreed by the Taliban as a capital crime.
Taliban deputy religious police minister Mohammad Salim Haqqani said in Kabul the detainees would be dealt with according to the Taliban's strict brand of Sharia law.
"Our message to other aid agencies is to respect Afghanistan's culture and religion, which are precious," said Haqqani, who displayed Bibles and a Christian video allegedly used to try to convert an Afghan Muslim family.
US humanitarian agency Shelter Now International (SNI) meanwhile took pains to distinguish itself from the group involved in the Kabul detentions.
"A separate organisation based in Germany has oversight of the office and personnel in Kabul," the Wisconsin-based group said in a press release.
"The German organization has sometimes used the name Shelter Now without SNI's permission, thus creating confusion surrounding this incident."
SNI, an nonsectarian Christian humanitarian agency, said however it was willing to work with the German group to help secure the safe release of the aid workers.
The United States, like most countries, does not recognise the Taliban regime or maintain an embassy in Kabul, and for security reasons does not normally allow its officials to enter the country.
According to Taliban radio, the detained foreigners include Americans Dana Curry and another woman whose name was inaudible, along with Germans George Taubmann, Silke Duerrkopf, Margrit Stebner and Kati Jelinek.
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