Swiss-based NGO confirms 18 staffers in Taliban custody

The Taliban has detained 18 staff members of the Swiss-based NGO International Assistance Mission (IAM) in Ghor province, the organization confirmed Saturday.

According to a statement issued by the organization, IAM stated it has not been informed of the reasons for the detention of its staff and the subsequent closure of its office in Lal wa Jangal in Ghor province.

“At this time, we have no information about the nature of allegations against our staff and are, therefore, unable or to comment or speculate about this ongoing situation,” the statement read.

IAM stated three staff members – two Afghanistan nationals and one international team member – working at IAM’s office in Ghor province were arrested by the Taliban on Sunday, 3 September 2023. This week, on Wednesday, 13 September, a further 15 national staff members were taken from the same office.

“We understand that all 18 people have now been transferred to Kabul,” the organization said.

They noted that they are not aware of the circumstances that led to the arrests nor have they been advised of the reason for the detention of their staff members.

“The well-being and security of our colleagues are paramount to us, and we are doing everything possible to ensure their safety and secure their swift release,” the statement read.

The organization stated a letter has been sent to the Ministry of Economy, where they legally registered as an international NGO. “We are also working together with the UN and ACBAR, the coordinating body for NGOs in Afghanistan, to deepen our understanding of the situation and to work for the quick release of our 18 colleagues.”

IAM has worked in Afghanistan for 57 years and says it values and respects local customs and cultures. “We stand by the principle that ‘aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint’,” their statement read.

The Taliban has not yet commented on the arrests.