The Taliban are holding at least nine foreigners in custody in Kabul, including “one American and several British citizens,” The Wall Street Journal reports Friday, per sources familair with the situation.
Among those being held are British reporter Andrew North — a freelance journalist formerly with the BBC — and an Irish photographer “who were in Kabul on assignment for the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR.” The two were recently detained alongside the Afghan journalist and Afghan driver they were working with, adds the Journal.
“We are doing our utmost to resolve the situation, in coordination with others. We will make no further comment given the nature of the situation,” the U.N. said in a statement on the matter, per The New York Times.
Since December, seven other Westerners have been detained by the Taliban, including one American, adds the Journal. The six others are British citizens. All were detained separately, and most had worked in the security sector, sources told the Journal.
“These are the first known cases of Westerners detained at length in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in August,” the Journal notes.
The detentions could also serve to further inflame tensions between the Taliban and the West, as well as potentially complicate the militant group’s “attempts to seek legitimacy with countries that have maintained crippling economic sanctions since the former government collapsed,” adds the Times.
“I don’t know whether we are seeing some organized collective crackdown or whether you just have some individual situations, but it’s certainly concerning any time individuals with valid foreign credentials are detained,” Mark Jacobson, who worked as deputy NATO representative in Afghanistan, told the Journal, “whether it’s a government that recognizes international convention or the Taliban.”