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Kidnapped American aid worker feared dead in Afghanistan

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  • NEW: Aid group says it received information indicating that aid workers are dead
  • Cyd Mizell and her driver were abducted in Kandahar province on January 26
  • Roadside bomb kills two Polish soldiers in the NATO-led force, injures another
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(CNN) -- An American aid worker and her Afghan driver who were kidnapped in Afghanistan a month ago are feared dead, according to their aid group.

Cyd Mizell had been working on projects designed to help women and families generate income.

Meanwhile, two Polish soldiers in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan were killed and one was injured by a roadside bomb, a military said Wednesday.

Armed gunmen snatched Cyd Mizell and her driver, Muhammad Hadi, from a residential neighborhood in the southern Kandahar province on January 26.

In a statement on its Web site, Mizell's organization -- the Asian Rural Life Foundation -- said it was "deeply grieved to report the apparent deaths."

"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," the statement said.

The statement did not say what led the organization to believe that its employees had died.

The Kandahar provincial authorities told CNN they could not confirm the report. A spokesman for the Afghanistan Interior Ministry said officials were investigating.

"We are trying to make sure whether it is true or not," said Zemarai Bashary. "We cannot confirm the death yet because our police do not have any reports regarding that she was killed."

CNN was not able to reach foundation Director Jeff Palmer early Wednesday. And no one answered the phone at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Mizell, 50, was born in California and grew up in Washington. She joined the foundation three years ago, and in that short time, learned to speak the local language fluently, Palmer has told CNN.

The organization runs several projects in the Kandahar area, and also has a presence in about 12 other Asian countries.

Mizell traveled around Kandahar in a burqa -- the traditional attire of some Afghan women that covers them from head to toe.

At the time of her abduction, Mizell had been working on projects designed to help women and families generate income. She also taught English at a high school and embroidery lessons at a girl's school, the organization said.

"She went to Afghanistan just as a real concern for the people and the turmoil within the country, and just as far as trying to reach out to women," friend Tony Rodgers of Acworth, Georgia, told CNN earlier.

Rodgers said he had known Mizell for almost two decades.

The driver who was kidnapped, Hadi, has been with the organization for two years. He is the father of five children, all under 15.

Soon after the abductions, some 500 to 600 Afghan women gathered at a wedding hall in Kandahar and implored government officials to find Mizell's captors.

No group has taken responsibility for the abductions.

Early this month, Mizell's father, George, issued an appeal to her kidnappers, pleading for his daughter's release in a statement.

"I'm confused why my daughter would be taken because she's a gentle, caring, and respectful person," he said. "When we talk to Cyd, she tells us about the friends she's made and the kindness that's been shown to her and of her desire to help them."

While a spate of kidnappings have gripped Afghanistan recently -- including the abduction of 23 South Korean Christian aid workers and a German woman last year -- it was the first such abduction for the foundation.

Two NATO soldiers killed

The deadly roadside bombing took place Tuesday in the Sharan district of Paktika province, along the rugged border with Pakistan.

The wounded soldier is being treated at an ISAF medical facility. ISAF, or the International Security Assistance Force, is the NATO-led military force in Afghanistan.

"Our hearts and minds are with the family and other loved ones of the brave soldiers who died on patrol," said Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco, an ISAF spokesperson. "These soldiers died honorably, helping bring security to Afghanistan."

Since the conflict began in late 2001, three Polish troops have died in Afghanistan.

The bombing came as a prominent American politician said that the war in Iraq is distracting the United States from what's happening along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, on Tuesday called the border region "the most urgent need in the war on terror" and "a superhighway for extremists."

The senator from Delaware just returned from Pakistan, where he and Sens. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, observed the election and also traveled in Afghanistan, India and Turkey.

"The main message I bring back is that Afghanistan is the forgotten war and Pakistan is the neglected frontier," Biden said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "Afghanistan is slipping toward failure because it has never been a priority, and it has to become one." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Saeed Ahmed and journalist Farhad Peikar contributed to this report.

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