US woman among 18 International NGO staff members detained by Taliban in Afghanistan
Afghanistan's Taliban authorities detained at least 18 members of an international NGO, including an American woman, accusing them of carrying out Christian missionary work, the country's officials announced on Saturday.
The International Assistance Mission (IAM) stated that its staffers were picked up from their office in Ghor province, central Afghanistan, and taken to Kabul.
Security and intelligence agencies had been monitoring the group for some time, according to Abdul Wahid Hamas Ghori, the province's government spokesman.
"Documents and audios were obtained that showed they were inviting people to join Christianity," he said.
He further claimed that 21 people were arrested, including an American woman.
Earlier, IAM said that 18 people were being held, including a "foreigner," and that it had no information about the nature of the allegations.
On September 3, an American woman and two Afghan employees were taken into custody, followed by 15 more Afghan employees on Wednesday.
"Should any charges be lodged against our organisation or any individual staff member, we will independently review any evidence presented," it said.
According to the IAM website, the organization is founded on Christian values but does not grant aid based on political or religious beliefs.
"We value and respect local customs and cultures," the Swiss-based organization stated in a statement on Saturday.
IAM has been operating in Afghanistan since 1966, under previous royal, communist, and Taliban governments, initially focusing on eye care and then expanding into other areas of health and education.
- With inputs from agencies