Three UK citizens held in Taliban custody in Afghanistan

Non-profit group says charity medic, traveller and unnamed third man ‘being well-treated’ as UK foreign office seeks contact with them.

Taliban fighters stand guard at the site of an explosion
The Taliban last year freed a veteran television cameraman and four other British nationals it had held for six months. [File: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP]

Three British men, including a charity worker, are being held in Taliban custody in Afghanistan, a UK non-profit organisation says, and the UK foreign ministry says it is working to secure contact with them.

In a statement released on Saturday, the foreign office said it was providing support to their families.

The Presidium Network said it is assisting two of the detainees, charity medic Kevin Cornwell, 53, and an unnamed man.

It also confirmed that the third man is Miles Routledge, 23, a British holidaymaker who received widespread attention and criticism on social media in August 2021 for having travelled to Afghanistan despite the Taliban’s return to power after US-led foreign forces withdrew from the country.

“We believe they are in good health and being well treated,” Scott Richards of the Presidium Network told UK-based Sky News. “We have no reason to believe they’ve been subject to any negative treatment such as torture, and we’re told that they are as good as can be expected in such circumstances.”

There had been “no meaningful contact” between authorities and the two men Presidium is assisting, he said, adding that their arrests came in relation to a misunderstanding over what he said was a licensed weapon in Cornwell’s room.

The two men being assisted by Presidium were detained by Taliban secret police on January 11.

It is unclear how long Routledge has been held for.

“Anyone travelling to dangerous parts of the world should take the utmost caution,” UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman told Sky News. “If they are going to do that, they should always act on the advice of the foreign office travel advice.”

“If there are risks to people’s safety, if they’re a British citizen abroad, then the UK government is going to do whatever it takes to ensure that they’re safe. The government is in negotiations and working hard to ensure people’s safety is upheld.”

Last year, the Taliban freed a veteran television cameraman and four other British nationals whom it had held for six months.

Al Jazeera reached out to Taliban officials for comment but had not gotten a response at the time of publication.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies