Christian aid workers arrested in Afghanistan

 Twenty four aid workers in Afghanistan are due to be tried shortly in Kabul, accused of trying to convert Moslems to Christianity. If they are found guilty under Sharia law, they face the death penalty. A Taliban militia spokesman told the French news agency AFP that the group had already "confessed to the crime" against the Islamic law. The Taleban religious police say they caught two women - an American and an Australian - showing Christian material to an Afghan family on a computer in their home in the capital, Kabul. The Taleban Deputy Minister for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice, Mohammad Salim Haqqani, told AFP: "We have been following this group for a long time and finally on Friday afternoon we were able to capture the two women red-handed." The United Nations says it is concerned for the well-being of the group, who work for the international aid agency Shelter Now. The group's German director has also been arrested and the agency's offices and a school where the group was teaching 65 children has been also closed down. So far, no-one has been allowed to visit the detainees, believed to include four Germans, two Americans and two Australians. Haqqani said the detainees were all being treated well and had no messages for their families or governments. However, United Nations spokesman said the arrests were "a major concern" and followed an increasing trend of foreign aid workers in Afghanistan being harassed. In January, the Taleban's supreme leader, Mullar Mohammad Omar, decreed that anyone convicted of trying to persuade an Afghan Muslim to convert would face the death penalty. Shelter Now describes itself as a non-governmental organisation involved in food distribution, water supplies and helping street children. The Taleban, however, says its activities are a front for propagating Christianity. The Taleban militia, which controls 95% of the country, follows a purist form of Islam and takes a hard line towards minority religions in Afghanistan. The regime provoked a storm of international criticism earlier this year for destroying two ancient Buddhist monuments.

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