Three British men including a charity medic and a self-styled “danger tourist” are being held in custody by the Taliban in Afghanistan, it has been reported.
The Mail on Sunday said Kevin Cornwell, a 53-year-old charity medic, and another British national who manages a hotel for aid workers in Kabul, who has not been named, were detained by the Taliban’s secret police in January.
The other Briton being held is Miles Routledge, 23, who returned to the country after being evacuated by British armed forces less than two years ago during the Kabul airlift, after he travelled there for a “holiday” and was caught up in the chaos of the Taliban takeover.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) confirmed it was attempting to secure consular contact with the British nationals detained and was supporting their families.
An FCDO spokesperson said: “We are working hard to secure consular contact with British nationals detained in Afghanistan and we are supporting families.”
A source said the UK government engages pragmatically with the Taliban on priorities including consular cases, human rights, counter-terrorism and humanitarian aid.
Cornwell, from Middlesbrough, was arrested in a raid by officers from the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) on 11 January, the Mail on Sunday reported, after Taliban agents accused him of having an illegal firearm in the safe in his room at the Darya Village Hotel. The hotel’s British manager was detained in the same raid.
Cornwell’s family said he was issued a licence for the handgun by the Taliban government. He had been in the country working as a medic for Iqarus International, which provides free health care to local people.
The two men detained in the raid have been held in a secure unit for foreign nationals run by the GDI. No charges have been brought and they have not been granted legal representation. Their families are being supported by Scott Richards, an experienced negotiator with Presidium Network, a British nonprofit organisation that works in conflict zones.
Richards said: “Having spoken with multiple witnesses to the events, it could be that we may be looking at a misunderstanding with GDI who may have been reacting to a tip.
“The weapon in Kevin’s room was stored with the licence issued by the Taliban’s ministry of interior and was apparently kept inside its holster.
“The weapon never left the safe, it had never been carried.”
Richards added: “The clear concern here is that the detainees have not been permitted access to consular officials or international observers.
“There is no clarity as to the legal process in Afghanistan such as the right to representation. There is no clarity on the charges.”
In June, five British nationals held by the Taliban for about six months including the former BBC cameraman and Afghanistan expert Peter Jouvenal were released.
It is understood that the five had been seized separately and British sources said nothing was given in return for their release except an apology by them.
The FCDO continues to advise against all travel to Afghanistan based on the security risks, including detention.