Taliban releases several British citizens captured in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) – Taliban and UK officials said on Monday that the Taliban had released several British nationals who were detained in Afghanistan following an agreement between the two countries.

Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the detainees were released on Sunday after several meetings between Afghan and British officials.

“Many British nationals who were arrested about six months ago for violating the laws and traditions of the Afghan people were released,” he said.

The Mujahid did not say which laws were broken by the British nationals or the details of why they were detained. All of them pledged to respect the laws of Afghanistan, the traditions and culture of the Afghan people and not to violate them again, the statement said.

The identities of the released British nationals were not released by any government and it was not yet known whether former BBC cameraman Peter Jouvenal was among them.

A British government statement in February said there were many British nationals in Taliban custody. Although the government declined to release his identity, Jouvenal’s wife Hasina Syed told The Associated Press that the former freelance cameraman-turned-businessman was captured on 13 December.

“We welcome and appreciate the release of five British nationals detained in Afghanistan by the current administration of Afghanistan,” a statement from Britain’s Office of Foreign Affairs, Commonwealth and Development said on Monday.

There was no report on the fate of an American citizen who was also detained by the Taliban. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” earlier this year that Washington was “actively working” to get the US released from Taliban custody. He declined to say more at the time, citing “its sensitivity”.

The British statement said British nationals had no role in the work of the UK government in Afghanistan and had traveled to the country against the UK government’s travel advice. “It was a mistake,” it said.

“On behalf of the families of British citizens, we express our regret for any violations of Afghan culture, customs or laws and assure good conduct in the future,” the UK government statement said.

Jouvenal’s wife, Syed, an Afghan, had said that her husband was investigating business opportunities in Afghanistan, including investments in lithium mining. Afghanistan is rich in lithium, a major component of energy storage batteries. He said that he was traveling alone and was not connected with the other detainees.

Jouvenal worked as a freelance cameraman during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and followed the country through its many wars. She is married to Syed and has three daughters.

Juvenal, who speaks both Pashto and Dari, Afghanistan’s two official languages, had several meetings with the Taliban’s mining ministry before being detained in December, Syed said with the minister. Until his detention, Syed said, Jouvenal was careful to keep in regular contact with Taliban officials to ensure they were aware of his activities and movements.

In the mid-2000s, Jouvenal paid for and operated a Gandamak restaurant and guest house in the Afghan capital, which became famous among the many journalists who worked during the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. had traveled to Afghanistan.

Since Cezin power in mid-August last year, the Taliban have imposed tough orders in Afghanistan, pointing to their repressive regime in the late 1990s. They have restricted the freedoms and rights of women and minorities, who are now barred from attending school beyond the sixth grade. The country is plunged into an unprecedented crisis, heading towards an economic recession in the form of famine and hunger.

At least two of the detainees apparently were in Afghanistan to secretly evacuate Afghan civilians, according to people with direct knowledge of those held in Taliban custody. People with direct knowledge spoke to the AP earlier this year on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversation.

The Taliban have made it clear that Afghans will not be allowed to leave the country without proper documents.

Syed said she feared her husband may have been caught up in a Taliban investigation that attempted to covertly relocate Afghan civilians from the country.


Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed.

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