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Clancy: Aid workers 'enormously emotional' return

CNN's Jim Clancy  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The eight Western aid workers who were rescued from a jail cell in Afghanistan on Thursday feared they were going to be used as human shields by the Taliban.

Now, President Bush called their release "incredible news."

CNN's Jim Clancy, based in Islamabad, Pakistan, filed this report on the aid workers and their return to safety.

CLANCY: Among the eight international aid workers that had been held for the past three months were two Americans Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry. These two young women were airlifted, along with the other six aid workers, back to Islamabad early Thursday. They spent the day with U.S. ambassador Wendy Chamberlain. She described how they spent the day talking on the telephone, hugging and kissing the relatives who were waiting for them here, and of course, tending to other matters, as well.

Here's what Chamberlain had to say:

CHAMBERLAIN: It was an enormously emotional, joyous moment. The parents of the two American girls were on hand to greet them. They have been here nearly the entire time the girls have been detained in Afghanistan. They've been living with us in our embassy, sometimes in my home, sometimes in the homes of counselor officers. They've become part of our family. This reunion was joyous, it was emotional, it was a wonderful moment for all of us.

CLANCY: All of the aid workers -- that included four Germans and two Australians -- were tired, exhausted even. It had been very stressful. It was one of the darkest moments. Many had thought they were going to become human shields for the collapse in Taliban defenses. But they were all smiles after they landed in Pakistan, having survived an ordeal.

It's a significant moment in the campaign being led by the United States. That is because retrieving, getting the freedom for these eight aid workers, was one of the goals that President Bush set when he started this mission.

CNN: There were reports that the Taliban had planned to come back and move the aid workers. Have you heard anything more about that?

CLANCY: That was the impression of the freed prisoners. They felt that they were being taken out of Kabul to become human shields for the Taliban. That was their worst nightmare. And even as the prison gates were being open and the opposition fighters were coming in, it was their fear that at that moment, it was actually the Taliban coming to take them away to their stronghold.


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