Taliban reportedly kidnaps nine western civilians, including several journalists

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The Taliban in Afghanistan have reportedly kidnapped nine western civilians, according to a tweet from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Among the detainees are two journalists who work for the UN including former BBC correspondent Andrew North, according to Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s former vice president. Eight additional westerners as yet unnamed are also allegedly being held in the capital city of Kabul.

“Two journalists with UNHCR and Afghan nationals working with them have been detained in Kabul. We are doing our utmost to resolve the situation, in coordination with others,” the UNHCR tweeted.

“We will make no further comment given the nature of the situation.”

“Due to no media, no reporting by citizens & a suffocating atmosphere corruption, crime & atrocities aren’t well exposed,” Salah tweeted Friday.

“As an example 9 citizens of western countries have been kidnapped amongst them Andrew North of BBC & Peter Juvenal owner of Gandomak Restaurant.”

It is believed that the western civilians are being held on charges of working for foreign intelligence agencies. A Taliban spokesman, Bilal Karimi, declined to comment on the arrest and said he is working to gather more information on the circumstances surrounding the apprehension which occurred earlier in the week.

Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid concurred and expressed that authorities were looking into the matter, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We have received information about this and are trying to confirm whether they have been detained or not,” he said.

So far, negotiations have failed to secure any forthcoming release of the captives.

As for journalist Andrew North, the BBC’s foreign editor, Paul Danahar, said in a tweet that North “is working for the UN in Kabul.”

“He is a former colleague and a respected journalist,” he added. “All inquiries about his situation, which his friends and colleagues are obviously concerned about, should be directed to the UN.”

News of the kidnapped civilians came as a British delegation led by Hugo Shorter, the Qatar-based head of the UK’s mission to Afghanistan, flew to Kabul to meet with Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on Thursday.

In a related story, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that two women’s rights activists were abducted following protests in early February, and their whereabouts remain unknown despite international pressure.

Taliban officials have denied any involvement in the abduction of the two women, but their subordinate fighters have, in the past, used force to break up protests and the ruling element demands of journalists that they “be committed to the national interest and Islamic principles.”

At least 50 Afghan media employees have been arrested or detained by police or the Taliban intelligence agency, according to Reporters Without Borders. The Committee to Protect Journalists stated the arrests were “a sad reflection of the overall decline of press freedom and increasing attacks on journalists under Taliban rule,” AFP reported.

The international community has repeatedly called for the Taliban to demonstrate greater respect for human rights – almost surely in vain – but the troglodyte government consistently makes demands for monetary and humanitarian aid as a condition for change.

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