workers if the United States will not attack Afghan civilians. In a statement the Taliban demanded that the US "stops its mass propaganda of military action against the Afghan people, " which has lead to an increase of refugees.
The statement came after U.S President George W. Bush said Friday, October 5, that any military action was not directed against "the poor souls" of Afghanistan but against those who harbour terrorists. Taliban officials suggested however that the detained Western aid workers could still be released even if an American-led assault against Afghanistan would only target the regime.
The statement, released to the Cable News Network, said that the U.S can "take action if it wishes" but that the Taliban "is prepared for military strikes." The Bush administration has declined to negotiate with the Taliban regime, which refused to hand over to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network, linked to the September 11 attacks.
PARENTS WELCOME NEWS
News about the release offer was however welcomed by the parents of detained American aid worker Heather Mercer, who have campaigned for her release and the other staff members. "Any time when we hear the words release and detainees in the same sentence we are encouraged," said Heather’s father John Mercer in Islamabad, the Pakistani Capital.
Heather’s mother, Deborah Oddy, said she was "delighted" to hear about release offer from "a high placed" official. "It was great to hear that it was an official word from a highly placed official. We haven’t heard too much from Mutawakil throughout this process, so to have a comment form him that there’s a possibility of conviction and release, which is the really important key word here," Oddy added.
The Taliban has said that its Spiritual Leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, is ultimately responsible for the fate of Western aid workers and 16 Afghan colleagues, who were detained August 3 on charges of spreading Christianity and converting Moslems in Afghanistan.
BASIS OF COMPASSION
All were working for the German based Christian charity Shelter Now, which has helped tens of thousands of refugees in the war ravaged country. The latest developments came despite earlier assurances from the Taliban Court that there world be "no linkage" between the terrorist attacks against the U.S. and the ongoing trial of the aid workers.
Pakistani lawyer Atif Ali Khan, who defends the Western detainees, told reporters earlier that he expected the Taliban supreme court to pass light sentences on the basis of compassion.
However analysts have warned that their 16 Afghan co-workers may still face execution, under the rulers strict interpretation if Islamic law. U.S Christians have set up 24 hour prayer networks to pray for the release of the two detained American women Mercer and Dayna Curry as well as Australians Peter Bunch and Diana Thomas, and Germans Georg Taubmann, Katrin Jelinek, Margrit Stebner and Silke Durrkopf.