June 20 (UPI) — The Afghan government has released five Britons held captive for months on charges of violating the country’s laws and traditions, officials said Monday.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the British nationals were detained six months ago for “violating the country’s laws and the traditions of the Afghan people” without specifying, and their release on Sunday follows “a series of meetings” between the two countries.
Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, tweeted that the five British nationals “will soon be reunited with their families,” and that she’s “grateful for the hard work of British diplomates to secure this outcome.”
The Britons were arrested in the wake of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August that preceded a crackdown on foreigners in the country, in particular journalists and activists, including at least two reporters working on assignment for the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees in February. They were released not long after.
In a statement from Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, an unnamed spokesperson said they “welcome and appreciate” the release of the five people who they clarified had no affiliation with the British government and that they had traveled to Afghanistan against London’s travel advice.
“This was a mistake,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also apologized on behalf of the families of the British nationals for “any breach of Afghan culture, customs or laws, and offer their assurance of future good conduct.”
“The U.K. Government regrets this episode.”
The individuals released were not named but the family and friends of Peter Jouvenal confirmed that the former BBC cameraman was among them.
“We are grateful to the thousands of people who have supported the campaign to release him,” the statement to the BBC said.
Mujahid said the five Britons had pledged to abide by the laws of Afghanistan and the traditions and culture of its people and not to violate them again.
“Afghanistan is safe for all, anyone can come to Afghanistan with confidence for charity work and tourism,” he said.
The release came a day after Hugo Shorter, charge d’affaires at the British mission to Afghanistan in the Qatar capital of Doha, issued a statement condemning violence seeking political change in the country.
“Violence of any kind is not in Afghanistan’s interests, nor the international community’s, and we deplore terrorist attacks of all kinds,” Shorter said.