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Concern mounts for captive aid workers

Fears for the safety of two captive Americans and six other foreign aid workers grew Tuesday after the fleeing Taliban yanked them from their cells and hustled them to the south along with the retreating allies of Osama bin Laden.

"Obviously to me this is rather devastating news," John Mercer, the father of American Heather Mercer, 24, said from Islamabad, Pakistan.

Mercer said he had been told by the Taliban Embassy in Islamabad that the workers had been taken to Kandahar, where the Taliban is based, for their own safety.

The Taliban "felt that if they were left there that harm may come to them from some of the extremists" in the opposition, he told NBC's Today show. "The Taliban has continually assured us that they will be kept safe."

The aid workers, six women and two men from German-based Christian organization Shelter Now International, had been detained in Kabul since Aug. 3, and Taliban judges had been trying them on proselytizing charges.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said he could not confirm that the detainees had been transferred. He said that the United States was concerned about their welfare and that the Taliban should release them immediately.

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