A ‘number’ of British citizens detained in Afghanistan, says govt

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Western media reports said at least six British citizens were being detained in Afghanistan, including former BBC correspondent Andrew North, who was released later that day, reports Asian Lite News

A “number” of British nationals are being detained in Afghanistan, the UK government said Saturday, adding that it had raised the issue with the country’s Taliban authorities.

The foreign ministry’s statement came a day after the Taliban released two overseas journalists who had been detained, including a former BBC correspondent.

“We are providing support to the families of a number of British men who have been detained in Afghanistan,” the ministry said, without specifying how many British nationals were being held and by whom.

“UK officials have raised their detention with the Taliban at every opportunity, including when a delegation travelled to Kabul this week.”

A British delegation led by Hugo Shorter — the head of the UK’s mission to Afghanistan but based in Qatar — flew to Kabul to meet foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi earlier this week.

Shorter said he had discussed the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, as well as human rights abuses, with Taliban officials during his trip to the country.

On Friday, Western media reports said at least six British citizens were being detained in Afghanistan, including former BBC correspondent Andrew North, who was released later that day.

The Taliban authorities did not comment.

Also among British nationals detained is Peter Jouvenal, who has been held since early December, a statement released by his friends said.

A journalist turned businessman, Jouvenal is also a German citizen and is married to an Afghan woman.

He might have been “detained in error” as he was in Afghanistan to discuss investments in the country’s mining industry, the statement said.

“He is being held without charge, and with no freedom to contact his family or lawyers,” it said, adding that Jouvenal had been the cameraman for a CNN interview with the late Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in 1997 in Afghanistan.

“Before his arrest he was working openly and had frequent meetings with senior Taliban officials.”

On Friday, the Taliban released North and another foreign journalist after the two were detained while on an assignment for the UN refugee agency in Afghanistan.

It was unclear when they were detained but the agency said it was “relieved” that the two and their Afghan colleagues were free.

Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they had been detained because they did not possess valid identity cards and documents.

Since they seized power in August, the Taliban have cracked down on dissent, forcefully dispersing women’s protests, detaining critics of the regime and often beating Afghan journalists.

John Simpson fears for his ex-BBC friend Peter Jouvenal

John Simpson has spoken of his fears for his close friend and former BBC cameraman who’s being held captive by the Taliban.

Distinguished British journalist Peter Jouvenal, 64, has been locked in a cell without being charged or given legal help since he was arrested in Kabul two months ago.

Simpson, the BBC’s world affairs editor, said: ‘Conditions are bad. It’s bitterly cold, and all they have to eat each day is a bowl of rice, occasionally garnished with beans.

Jouvenal has worked and travelled in Afghanistan for more than 40 years, is married to an Afghan woman and they have three children.

He was with Simpson in 2001 when the reporter, famously disguised in a burka, slipped into Afghanistan and they became the first journalists to show the world the last months of Taliban rule.

Jouvenal also arranged and filmed the first Western interview with Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, for CNN, in 1997.

Simpson last saw his friend in November – three months after the Taliban returned to power when Western troops left the country.

Two weeks later, Jouvenal was abducted near the former British Embassy in Kabul but details of his plight had been kept secret amid fears for his safety.

The news emerged on Friday when another former BBC journalist, Andrew North, was taken captive by the Taliban but quickly released.

Jouvenal, who is now a successful businessman, had reassured family he would be safe.

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