Aid Group: Kidnapped U.S. Aid Worker Feared Dead

An American aid worker and her Afghan driver kidnapped in southern Afghanistan a month ago are feared dead, a statement from their aid group said. Afghan and U.S. officials said Wednesday they could not confirm the report.

Cyd Mizell, 50, and driver Abdul Hadi were kidnapped in a residential neighborhood of Kandahar on Jan. 26. Mizell worked on aid projects for the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, or ARLDF.

"Although we have no confirmation of their deaths, we have received information over the past few days indicating that our two aid workers have been killed," said a statement posted on ARLDF's Web site Tuesday.

Kandahar's Gov. Assadullah Khalid said he did not have any information about the case, and a U.S. Embassy official in Kabul said he could not confirm the report.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abductions.

Although the kidnappings happened in an area known for insurgent activity, the Taliban denied that its fighters had taken the two. Kidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs in Afghanistan have been on the rise the last year.

An official with ALRDF in Kandahar said the group had received reports in recent days from two Afghan sources that Mizell and Hadi are dead. He said officials were working with the Red Cross to try to recover the bodies. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Mizell, of Eureka, California, was wearing a burqa -- the traditional all-encompassing dress worn by many Afghan women -- when she was taken.

Mizell taught English at Kandahar University and gave embroidery lessons at a girls' school. She spoke the local language of Pashtu well, colleagues said. She had worked for the foundation in Kandahar for the last three years.

Several foreigners -- including 23 South Koreans, two German construction workers and two Italian journalists -- have been kidnapped in Afghanistan in the last year, but kidnappings of Americans have been rare.

An American civilian was briefly abducted in Kabul in April 2005 but escaped by throwing himself from a moving car. Two of the 23 South Koreans kidnapped in July were killed, as was one of the Germans. The other foreign abductees were freed.