A headline in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung put it best: "Aid Workers Go From Detainees to Hostages." Once the Taliban, which arrested 24 Shelter Now International workers in August, offered to free the eight foreigners "if the United States mitigates the sufferings of the common people of Afghanistan and gives up its dire threats," any semblance of legitimacy vanished for its "trial" of the workers on charges of promoting Christianity. "This was always a concern—that the hostages would be used as pawns," an unnamed diplomat tells The Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald.

Guenter Pleuger, a deputy at the German foreign ministry, says the foreign aid workers contacted their Pakistani lawyer after Sunday night's attack on Afghanistan by the U.S. and Britain. They are all well, Pleuger said, but "the situation is clearly more dangerous" after the military action.

"The aid workers are now evidently being relocated daily to foil attempts to free them," reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and they are being allowed to communicate with their families via fax machine and the occasional phone call. Reuters reports that a fax from Australian hostage Diana Thomas said they were able to cook their own meals and order takeout food from a Kabul restaurant.

Numerous reports say American Heather Mercer, 24, is psychologically unhealthy and worried about being killed. In a recent fax to her mother, she begged the U.S. government not to attack Afghanistan. "All eight of us want to live," she wrote. Her lawyer, Atif Ali Khan, said the Taliban had called a doctor for her. "She is not taking it too well, she is young," Khan said Saturday. "When we left she completely broke up and did not want us to leave."

Her father, John Mercer, has refused to comment since yesterday's attack. Her stepfather, Del Oddy, told Newsday that he's worried too: "We are hoping that the U.S. can make the surgical strikes they are talking about. We are just sorry that our daughter happens to be in harm's way at the moment."

Whether the "trial" will resume as scheduled is anybody's guess. Mercer's parents and those of the other American hostage, Dayna Curry, had been scheduled to return to Kabul over the weekend but were apparently delayed. (Weblog is a bit confused about why and about when the trial had been scheduled to resume. Some reports said Sunday, others said Wednesday, still others said next Wednesday). There's still no word on what's happening with the 16 Afghan Shelter Now workers also arrested.

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