Friday, February 29, 2008

Parents respond to word that kidnapped US aid worker feared dead

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

KABUL, Afghanistan -- An American aid worker's parents, who live in Washington state, say they are heartbroken to receive "credible reports" that their daughter and her Afghan driver, kidnapped in southern Afghanistan a month ago, are feared dead.

"While these reports remain unconfirmed, we are beginning to accept that the hoped-for outcome may no longer be possible," George and Peggy Mizell of DuPont, Wash., said Thursday in a statement.

Cyd Mizell, 50, and driver Abdul Hadi were kidnapped in a residential neighborhood of Kandahar on Jan. 26. Mizell worked on aid projects for the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, or ARLDF.

"Although we have no confirmation of their deaths, we have received information over the past few days indicating that our two aid workers have been killed," said a statement posted on the group's Web site Tuesday.

Afghan and U.S. officials said Wednesday they could not confirm the report.

"Cyd knew before she went to Afghanistan that it could be a dangerous place, but she went because she loved the Afghan people and dedicated her life to serving them," her parents said in their statement. "We are trying to understand why someone would kill a gentle, caring person who came to their country to help the poor."

Kandahar's Gov. Assadullah Khalid said he did not have any information about the case, and a U.S. Embassy official in Kabul said he could not confirm the report.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abductions.

Although the kidnappings happened in an area known for insurgent activity, the Taliban denied that its fighters had taken the two. Kidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs in Afghanistan have been on the rise in the past year.

An official with ARLDF in Kandahar said the group had received reports in recent days from two Afghan sources that Mizell and Hadi are dead. He said officials were working with the Red Cross to try to recover the bodies. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Mizell, of Eureka, Calif., was wearing a burqa - the traditional all-encompassing dress worn by many Afghan women - when she was taken.

Mizell taught English at Kandahar University and gave embroidery lessons at a girls' school. She spoke the local language of Pashtu well, colleagues said. She had worked for the foundation in Kandahar for the last three years.

Several foreigners - including 23 South Koreans, two German construction workers and two Italian journalists - have been kidnapped in Afghanistan in the last year, but kidnappings of Americans have been rare.

An American civilian was briefly abducted in Kabul in April 2005 but escaped by throwing himself from a moving car. Two of the 23 South Koreans kidnapped in July were killed, as was one of the Germans. The other foreign abductees were freed.

-----

Associated Press Writer Fisnik Abrashi contributed to this report.

Warning!

This is part of a foreign policy simulation for the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. The events depicted are not actually happening.