Taliban releases 5 British citizens caught in crackdown after US withdrawal

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British authorities said Monday that the Taliban released five male citizens who were held captive in Afghanistan after the U.S. troop withdrawal from the country in August.

The British Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office said in a statement that the men had no role with the U.K. government in Afghanistan and were there against travel advice.

“This was a mistake,” the statement read.

“On behalf of the families of the British nationals, we express their apologies for any breach of Afghan culture, customs or laws, and offer their assurance of future good conduct,” according to the statement. “The UK Government regrets this episode.” 

The New York Times reported that the five British nationals were arrested by Taliban authorities as they were trying to leave the country during the chaotic U.S. military withdrawal from Kabul.

In its own statement, the Taliban said the British citizens were arrested due to “violating the country’s laws and the traditions of the Afghan people,” adding that the individuals were released after several meetings between British and Taliban officials. 

“They pledged to abide by the laws of Afghanistan, the traditions and culture of the people and not to violate them again,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. “Afghanistan is now safe for all, anyone can come to Afghanistan with confidence for charity and tourism.” 

In a statement, the family of former journalist and businessman Peter Jouvenal, who was among the five individuals to be released from custody, expressed their gratitude to for his release, the Times noted. 

“We are grateful to the thousands of people who have supported the campaign to release him,” the family’s statement said. “We thank the team in the U.K. Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office who have worked tirelessly to secure his release.”

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