Women in Taliban stronghold protest kidnap of US aid worker


KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Hundreds of women protested on Tuesday against the abduction of a female US aid worker in southern Afghanistan and called on religious leaders to condemn the kidnapping. Cyd Mizell, 49, and her Afghan driver were seized while travelling to work on Saturday in the southern city of Kandahar. The extremist Taliban say they are trying to find out if any of their members were involved. Around 500 women gathered in an auditorium normally used for meetings and wedding ceremonies in Kandahar for a demonstration organised by the city`s women`s association. "We call on Kandahar religious council to condemn this act and encourage the public to help, call on the abductors to release her without any harm or conditions," read a resolution passed by the meeting. They also called on tribal elders and the youth community of the province to "help find and release" Mizell. "We strongly condemn the abduction of a foreign women who was working for Kandahar people and Kandahar women," it read. Protester Bibi Amina, 35, said abducting women was contrary to the principles of Islam and Afghan culture. "Such a cowardly act defames the whole nation. We ask whoever the kidnappers are to free her safely and with no conditions," she told AFP. Mizell`s employer is a small Philippines-headquartered community development organisation called the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation (ARLDF). ARLDF international director Jeff Palmer told AFP: "We are extremely concerned for her and her driver and we are still waiting for the contact." Few foreigners live and work in the southern city because of the threat from Taliban insurgents, who are most active in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Another female participant of the meeting, Shrifa, said the fact that no one had claimed responsibility made them more worried. "It makes us more worried that no one has claimed responsibility for the abduction." she said. Provincial police chief Sayed Aqa Saqib said Tuesday they were still searching for her and no one had contacted them claiming responsibility. "We are trying every minute to find her. We have not been contacted by anyone so far," he said. Homayun Hamidzada, the spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, said investigations were underway "to verify if the abduction has a political motive." The Al-Qaeda-linked Taliban militia, in government between 1996 and 2001, was involved in a series of abductions of foreigners last year and has said the tactic was effective in putting pressure on the government and its allies. Criminal groups have also been behind a rash of kidnappings in recent months and are sometimes believed to pass their hostages onto the Taliban.

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