UN: Journalists and Afghan nationals detained in Kabul; reports say one American among those held

A pair of western journalists are among a group of people — including an American — that has been detained by Taliban forces in Kabul, multiple media outlets reported Friday.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a brief statement Friday that two journalists on assignment with the organization have been detained in Kabul with Afghan nationals who were working alongside them.

“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 group said in a tweet.

The two journalists detained this week were a British reporter and Irish photographer, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The New York Times reported that Andrew North, a British citizen and former BBC reporter, and ex-journalist Peter Jouvenal, who ran a guesthouse in Kabul, had been detained.

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“The Taliban’s detention of two journalists on assignment with the UN refugee agency is a sad reflection of the overall decline of press freedom and increasing attacks on journalists under Taliban rule,” said Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, in a prepared statement. “Andrew North and the other, unidentified journalist should be freed immediately and allowed to continue their work, and the Taliban must halt its repeated attacks on and harassment of journalists.”

The Taliban are holding at least nine foreigners in Kabul, according to The Wall Street Journal. In addition to the two journalists detained this week, seven others have been held in the Afghan capital since December. Six of those are British, and one is American, according to the journal.

Those detentions are believed to be the first since the U.S. completed its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August after a two-decade war. As U.S. forces pulled back in the country, Taliban fighters again seized control of Afghanistan, overrunning its government. 

President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as Afghan forces put up little resistance against the Taliban. That forced U.S. military officials to work with the Taliban during the withdrawal.

Taliban fighters surrounded the Kabul airport where the evacuation was centered, making it difficult for Americans and others trying to flee the country to get past access points and into the airfield.

USA TODAY will update this story as it develops.


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