Alwaght- Afghanistan’s Taliban detained 18 staff members of a non-governmental organization (NGO), including an American woman, on charges of being involved in Christian missionary work in the country.
"Documents and audios were obtained that showed they were inviting people to join Christianity,” a government spokesman for the province Abdul Wahid Hamas Ghori said, referring to the staffers of the Swiss-registered NGO.
He said security and intelligence forces had been observing the group for some time.
The International Assistance Mission (IAM) confirmed its staffers were picked up on two separate occasions this month from the NGO's office in Ghor province, central Afghanistan, and taken to the capital Kabul.
It said in a statement earlier that 18 people, including a "foreigner," were being held and that it had no information about the nature of the allegations.
"Should any charges be lodged against our organization or any individual staff member, we will independently review any evidence presented," the IAM said.
The NGO said that the organization does not provide aid according to political or religious beliefs. "We value and respect local customs and cultures," it said.
The IAM has operated in Afghanistan since 1966, when it specialized in eye care, later branching out into other areas of health and education.
They lost ten medics, including eight foreigners, in an attack in remote northern Afghanistan back in 2010.
Taliban leaders claimed responsibility at the time, saying the medics were Christian missionaries and accused them of working as military spies.
The Taliban regained control of Afghanistan two years ago, following the US and NATO forces' hasty withdrawal from the country after more than two decades of war.
Since they assumed power, the rulers have imposed sweeping restrictions on the population, including barring women from working for NGOs and the United Nations.
Girls more than 12 years of age have been barred from attending school and a nationwide ban has been implemented on women from attending universities.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has recently warned about a systematic assault on the freedom of Afghanistan’s people.
He told the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, “human rights in Afghanistan are in a state of collapse, acutely affecting the lives of millions of women, men, girls, and boys.”