Late on Friday Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the people detained while working for the UN had originally been seized because “they didn’t possess any ID cards, permits and necessary documents.”

The family of another British man who was seized by Taliban authorities in Kabul at the end of last year have also gone public with concerns about his health and safety after more than two months in jail without charges or access to a lawyer.

Though the Taliban have detained and beaten Afghan journalists regularly since sweeping to power in the summer, the arrests this week mark the first time they are known to have held foreign reporters for more than a few hours.

One of those detained this week is the former BBC journalist Andrew North, who has long experience working in Afghanistan, including for the website Tortoise. He had recently recorded a From Our Own Correspondent piece for the BBC as a freelancer, and had also recently written for the Guardian.

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