Afghanistan’s Taliban confirmed Monday they had freed several British men after holding them for about six months.
The confirmation came shortly after British officials announced that five of their citizens had been released from detention in Afghanistan.
Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a Twitter post that the men were detained for breaching Afghan laws and traditions. He said they were handed over to the United Kingdom on Sunday following a series of meetings between the Taliban and the U.K. government.
“They pledged to adhere to the laws of Afghanistan, the traditions and the culture of the people, and not to violate them again,” Mujahid added
The British Foreign Office welcomed the release and noted the five men had traveled to the South Asian nation against the advice of the U.K. government.
“This was a mistake,” the statement quoted a representative as saying.
“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. The U.K. government regrets this episode.”
British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss wrote on Twitter that the freed prisoners “will soon be reunited with their families” and thanked British diplomats for their role in securing their release.
Neither the Taliban nor British officials immediately made public the names or other details about the freed Britons.
In February, family and friends of British-German dual national Peter Jouvenal reported that he was being held by the Taliban.
A family statement at the time noted that Jouvenal had traveled in Afghanistan for decades as a freelance BBC cameraman and was visiting the country to discuss investments in the Afghan mining industry and to conduct family business when he was taken into custody by the Taliban in December.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August 2021 days before the last American, British and other Western coalition troops chaotically withdrew from the country later that month — after almost 20 years of war with the Islamist group.
The Taliban late last year launched a crackdown on foreigners and their Afghan partners, accusing them of working in the country without proper documentation. The hard-line group has also briefly arrested local journalists and rights activists critical of Taliban rule.
Mujahid has rejected charges that the Taliban’s security forces are threatening charity groups or targeting dissents.
“Afghanistan is now safe for all. Anyone can come to Afghanistan with confidence for charity work and tourism,” the Taliban spokesman claimed in his statement Monday.