The United Nations ordered all 80 of its employees out of Afghanistan, sending emergency flights to Kabul to transport the workers to neighboring Pakistan. Many left Wednesday and the rest are to leave Thursday, U.N. officials in Kabul said.
Dozens of other employees of international aid organizations also left. Twelve of the International Red Cross's 70 employees in Afghanistan have evacuated, said Mario Musa, a spokesman for the Red Cross in Kabul.
The employees were pulled out because of fears of a retaliatory strike by the United States to punish this Central Asian nation for harboring suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, said several aid workers who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In 1998, the United States attacked Afghanistan with a volley of Tomahawk cruise missiles after suspecting bin Laden of masterminding the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
About 20 men, mostly Pakistani militants, were killed in the attack on eastern Afghanistan, but bin Laden escaped. An Italian U.N. worker was killed and two other expatriate aid workers injured in the angry demonstrations in Kabul that followed.
On Wednesday, U.N. spokeswoman Marie Heuze said in Geneva that the withdrawals were precautionary, but declined to say whether the United Nations feared a possible reprisal in Afghanistan by the U.S. military.
"We don't know who carried out the attacks yesterday," Heuze said.
The mothers of two Americans, Heather Mercer, 24 and Dayna Curry, 29, on trial in Afghanistan along with two Australians and six Germans on charges of preaching Christianity, said they also planned to leave. Mercer's father, John, said he was staying.
Helmut Landes, consular officer of the German Embassy in Pakistan, and his Australian colleague, Alastar Adams, were to remain in Kabul. It wasn't immediately known whether David Donahue, consul-general of the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan, was leaving.
By Kathy Gannon
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