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Dayna Curry, Heather Mercer freed with other workers in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (BP)–Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer and six other western aid workers were rescued Nov. 15 in pre-dawn Afghanistan after being freed amid an anti-Taliban uprising in the city of Ghazni.

The workers had been taken to the city, about 50 miles south of Kabul, by Taliban forces retreating from the nation’s capital as U.S.-backed Northern Alliance forces were advancing.

Sixteen Afghan aid workers who also had been held by Taliban authorities also were freed, when Northern Alliance forces entered Kabul, according to news reports.

The aid workers, affiliated with the German-based Shelter Now ministry, were arrested Aug. 3 on Taliban charges of spreading their Christian faith.

“Even the timing of it is not surprising,” Danny Mulkey, assistant pastor of Curry and Mercer’s home church, told Baptist Press the morning of Nov. 15, referencing the prayers of supporters that the workers would be released by Thanksgiving.

The nighttime rescue of the aid workers was accomplished by U.S. troops aboard three Special Forces helicopters who flew across 100 miles of hostile territory to make the pickup, ABC News reported.

Curry and Mercer were seen briefly on an ABC News report the morning of Nov. 15 with joyous smiles and voicing quick words of excitement over their freedom as they were entering a van in Islamabad. The Associated Press reported that the eight workers “appeared to be in good health” after their three-month captivity.

Curry and Mercer were reunited Nov. 15 with family members who had been holding vigil in Islamabad, Pakistan, since the workers’ arrest.

One of the freed western aid workers, Georg Taubmann of Germany, told reporters the six women and two men spent a cold night Tuesday, Nov. 13, locked in a steel container then were transferred to a jail in Ghazni, from which they were freed in an local uprising against the Taliban.

Taubmann, in recounting their ordeal to reporters, said the steel container where they spent the night was “terribly cold. … We had no blankets. We were freezing the whole night through.”

The next morning they were taken to a jail — the fifth jail where they had been held since Aug. 3, Taubmann told reporters at the German embassy in Islamabad. Before long, bombing by American forces began, followed in about an hour by a local uprising against the Taliban. Northern Alliance troops broke into the prison, Taubmann continued, and “we actually were afraid the Taliban were coming and taking us to Kandahar. We were really scared.” But Taubmann and three fellow German aid workers, Curry and Mercer and two Australians received a hero’s welcome in Ghazni. “We walked into the city and the people came out of the houses and they hugged us and they greeted,” Taubmann said. “They were all clapping. They didn’t know there were foreigners in the prison. It was like a big celebration for all those people.”

Northern Alliance forces guarded the eight aid workers until they were picked up that night in an open field.

Curry’s stepfather, Jim Cassell in Franklin, Tenn., told the local ABC affiliate that the release of the aid workers was squarely an answer to prayer.

Whenever people asked him what they could do to help his stepdaughter and the others, Cassell said he regularly told them that prayer was the best thing and the only thing they could do.

Curry and Mercer are members of Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, a congregation founded by Waco’s Highland Baptist Church.