German media report that at least four employees of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) have been arrested by the Taliban in recent weeks, with one of them arrested this week, an incident that has prompted the temporary closure of GIZ offices in the country.
The German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has confirmed the arrests, noting that the individuals in custody are local Afghan staff currently engaged in GIZ projects in Afghanistan.
“We are taking this situation very seriously and are working through all the channels available to us to get our colleagues released. In order not to jeopardize these efforts, we cannot provide any further details,” stated a spokesman for the Federal Development Ministry, as quoted by WDR.
GIZ, a German development organization, continues its operations in Afghanistan with over 250 employees.
As per WDR, the Taliban initially arrested four GIZ employees in October, releasing them shortly afterward. In early November, another GIZ employee was arrested by Taliban intelligence members and remains in prison. Ten days later, two additional GIZ employees were reportedly arrested at Kabul airport, and they are also said to be in custody.
The arrested GIZ employees, particularly those involved in risk management, face accusations of espionage by the Taliban, although the Taliban has not issued any official statements regarding the arrests.
The ongoing detentions have raised concerns within the German federal government regarding the future of GIZ’s operations in Afghanistan.
Quoted by WDR, a spokesman for the ministry of development commented on the incident, stating that it raises questions about the current and future security assessment in Afghanistan. The spokesman acknowledged the potential for a changed security situation if the cases are not resolved quickly.
In response to the situation, a “full lockdown” was imposed on GIZ employees in Afghanistan. GIZ offices remain closed until further notice, with some employees working from home and others reportedly going into hiding due to fears of persecution.