U.S. aid worker kidnapped in Afghanistan

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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Gunmen kidnapped an American aid worker Jan. 26 as she was headed to work in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Cyd Mizell, who works for the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, and her driver were stopped by the unidentified men about 7:47 a.m. local time, according to Jeff Palmer, international director of the organization.

Mizell was wearing a burqa, the traditional dress of women in Afghanistan, which covers them from head to toe, and was not traveling with an armed guard, according to news reports.

"Local government officials have reported that Miss Mizell and her driver were stopped on the road as they traveled in the Kandahar area and were taken by unidentified persons," Palmer said to Baptist Press. "We have not been contacted by the worker or by any captors voicing demands.

"It is our hope that Miss Mizell will be released safely and quickly," he added. "We are doing all we can to resolve the situation. We understand that provincial government authorities and local police are working to locate our worker."

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but news agencies are reporting a provincial government adviser received a telephone call that claimed Mizell is in Taliban custody.

Mizell teaches English language lessons at the university, according to Mohammad Gul, a professor at Kandahar University. She also gives embroidery lessons to women.

Gul told the Associated Press that Mizell speaks the local language, Pashtu, and described her as "a very patient and calm woman" who "was always thinking about Afghanistan's future."

Mizell has worked for ARLDF on income-generating women's projects in Kandahar for the last three years, according to Palmer.

"This is a first for our organization and we're really praying for a quick resolution," he said.

The Asian Rural Life Development Foundation is a humanitarian organization with offices in the Philippines and Thailand. It "works throughout Asia to help provide a better quality of life for the poorest of the poor, mainly through community development projects," according to the group's Internet site, arldf.net.

The organization has work in a dozen Asian countries, with most of its programs focusing on small- scale efforts.

In the Kandahar area, ARLDF-related projects include assisting in education and projects that aid women learning skills to better their lives and the lives of their families. Projects in the region also include food for work, irrigation, rehabilitation, health care and restoration projects.

Mizell's kidnappers are "enemies of the country, the enemy of Islam and the enemy of Afghanistan," Kandahar's governor, Asadullah Khalid, told reporters. "This is against Afghan culture to abduct a woman.

"She trusted the Afghan nation and respected them, that's why she was traveling without security guards and actually she didn't ask for security."