By Stefan J. Bos, Chief Internationl Correspondent BosNewsLife
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BosNewsLife) -- A German evangelical development worker who was kidnapped at gunpoint from a restaurant in the Afghan capital Kabul has been freed, her organization and Afghan officials confirmed Monday, August 20.
Christina Meier, 31, was freed during a police raid on a house on the outskirts of the city, and a number of her suspected abductors were reportedly detained. "We are extremely thankful and happy about the release of our colleague Christina Meier, who was kidnapped on Friday in Kabul," ra International, a non-denominational Christian relief and development organization.
In a statement monitored by BosNewsLife, the German office of Ora International said that Meier was doing "reasonable well in these circumstances," and added that she had been moved with her husband to the German embassy.
An Afghan intelligence official reportedly said that at least two of her kidnappers have been arrested and that one of them was "a dangerous criminal who escaped from jail in northern Afghanistan about two months ago." They showed her this weekend in video footage released by Afghan television.
Ora International said it had set up a "crisis staff" to discuss the future of its operations in Afghanistan, as Meier managed the group's Kabul office. The relief group also stressed it "deeply regrets" that a taxi driver was killed when four armed men dragged Meier to a waiting car and sped away followed by Afghan security forces. They opened fire, but missed the Toyota, instead hitting the taxi driver, news reports said.
"We are mourning with the family of this [innocent] bystander who was killed during the kidnapping," Ora International said.
The militant Muslim Taliban movement, who abducted 23 South Korean evangelical Christians July 19, denied involvement in the kidnapping. They killed two men and released two women. Direct negotiations with South Korean emissaries about the release of the remaining 19 hostages have reportedly broken down, although telephone conversations continue, the Taliban said.
Kidnappings of foreigners in Kabul itself are relatively rare. The last time a foreigner was abducted in the city was in 2005. The victim, an Italian woman, was released after a few weeks by the kidnappers, said to have been a criminal gang.
Ora International is among several Christian groups active in Afghanistan, despite the apparent dangers. It was founded in 1981 by German-born entrepreneur Heinrich Floreck, who had experienced the cruelties of World War Two through abduction, sickness and separation from his parents. He said the experiences taught him that humanitarian aid involves both physical aid and emotional support.
Initially Floreck saw his main task in helping people from the ex-Communist Eastern European states, many of whom were persecuted because of their religious beliefs. Later Ora International became increasingly active in Africa and Central Asia. The organization works in 30 countries, since 1991 also in Afghanistan, where about 20 co-workers are engaged mainly in health projects.
The threats of kidnappings have made it difficult for Christian aid workers to operate in the country. In 2001 the Taliban held eight foreign co-workers of the Christian relief and development agency Shelter Now hostage for 102 days. They were liberated by US-forces.
One of the four German ex-hostages Margrit Stebner told German-based evangelical news agency IDEA that despite these difficulties Christian aid groups should remain in Afghanistan to help bring back "peace and stability" to the war-torn nation. (With BosNewsLife News Center and BosNewsLife Research).
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