US Aid Worker’s Family Fears Attacks
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Relatives of an American aid worker jailed in Afghanistan said Monday they fear for her safety now that U.S. air strikes have begun, but they are glad the United States refused to negotiate with the Taliban in exchange for her release.
Dayna Curry, a 29-year-old Tennessee native, was arrested Aug. 3 along with another American, four Germans and two Australians and remains in the custody of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime on charges of preaching Christianity in the strictly Islamic nation.
The aid workers were being held in Kabul, one of the cities targeted by air strikes Sunday and Monday.
Leanne Malone, Curry’s cousin, said family members got a ``sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs″ when they first heard of the air strikes, but were equally unsettled by the Taliban’s offer the day before to release the aid workers if Washington stopped its threats and began negotiations.
The United States has demanded the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in last month’s terrorist attacks, and has said the demand is non-negotiable.
``We didn’t want the United States to negotiate,″ Malone said. ``There’s a trust issue. It’s hard to know if we could take them at their word. ... For them to come up with this now only because we’re threatening to bomb them _ that’s no negotiation. That’s just like a bribe, almost.″
Germany sent an official to Pakistan on Monday to step up efforts to win the aid workers’ release. Guenter Pleuger, a deputy at the German Foreign Ministry, said the aid workers had been contacted overnight by their Pakistani lawyer, who said that they appeared to be well.
The father of Heather Mercer, the other American being held, also traveled to Pakistan to lobby for her release. John Mercer of Vienna, Va., refused to talk to reporters after the attacks.
Curry’s relatives were keeping close to their televisions and cell phones.
``We’re, of course, more worried than ever now,″ said Sue Fuller, Curry’s stepmother and a psychology professor at Tennessee State University in Nashville. ``We both weren’t prepared because we didn’t think it would happen this quickly. I guess we were able to cling to the hope that the trial was going to result in their release, and now we don’t have that to cling to.″
The aid workers’ trial has been postponed indefinitely because of the air strikes.
Curry’s mother, Nancy Cassell, traveled to Afghanistan after the arrests to be close to her daughter but was forced to relocate to Pakistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because of the threat of a U.S. assault.
Cassell is relaying messages from her daughter to relatives in the United States. In an e-mail Monday, Cassel said that before Sunday’s strikes Dayna Curry asked about her siblings and said things were peaceful. In the past, she has said she wants to remain in Afghanistan after her release to continue her charity work.
``She doesn’t talk like someone whose life is threatened or who’s in prison,″ Fuller said. ``I know that she loves her work and the people there.″