Brits detained by Taliban hold 'emotional call' with family for first time in months

Charity medic Kevin Cornwell (right) and an unnamed British man spoke to their families for the first time in months. It isn't known whether 23-year-old Miles Routledge (left) has had contact with his, as Callum Watkinson reports

Two British men detained in Afghanistan by the Taliban have reportedly made contact with their family for the first time in three months.

Charity paramedic Kevin Cornwell, 53, from Middlesbrough, and an unnamed British man who manages a hotel for aid workers in the capital Kabul, were arrested by the Taliban's secret police in January, according to a non-profit organisation assisting them.

A third British man, a tourist and social media blogger Miles Routledge, 23, is also being held by the Taliban.

Earlier, the home secretary suggested the government is “in negotiations” over the safety of the three men.

Scott Richards, co-founder of the Presidium Network which is supporting Mr Cornwell and the other unnamed Brit, confirmed they had both had "emotional" calls with their families for the first time since January.

It is understood Mr Cornwell and the hotel manager have been taken to a general directorate of intelligence facility run by the Taliban for foreign nationals.

Mr Richards wrote on Twitter: “We can confirm the men have spoken with the family, the conversation was unscripted, and that they are being treated fairly.

“The family was able to speak for one minute to one minute and a half and to speak freely, clearly what is an important and emotional call".

Mr Richards said the call “represents tremendous progress in the situation”, adding: “The details of that call are private but we understand a great relief to the family.

“The relief Kevin’s family expressed after hearing his voice for the first time in three months not knowing if he was well brought a sense of peace and gave them hope that this situation will be resolved soon.”

Mr Cornwell and the other unnamed Brit were arrested at a hotel in Kabul when Afghan intelligence officers found a gun in Mr Cornwell's hotel room safe on January 11.

The Presidium Network said the pair have been held without charge since they were arrested.

Afghan officers accused Mr Cornwell - who works for a charity providing free local healthcare and liaises with the likes of the United Nations and Unicef - of having an unlicensed gun. The Presidium Network said the firearm was licensed and that the arrests were part of a misunderstanding.

Asked about the situation on the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme on Sky News, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “If there are risks to people’s safety, if they’re a British citizen abroad, then the UK government is going to do whatever it takes to ensure that they’re safe," she added.

“And the government is in negotiations and working hard to ensure people’s safety is upheld.”

Pressed on whether government negotiations are currently happening, she replied: “If there are problems and if there are safety concerns to British individuals abroad then the FCDO will be working actively to ensure people are safe.”

But Mr Richards had said on Saturday that there had previously been no contact with the men.

He told ITV News that "there has to date been no meaningful interaction or interaction with consular officials, governments or anyone else" in the matter.

"That this has changed today, represents an enormous step forwards," he added.

It is not known how long Mr Routledge, a controversial YouTuber who travelled to Afghanistan on holiday days before the Taliban took over in 2021, has been held for.

Mr Routledge is a YouTuber who posts videos of his trips to 'dangerous' locations. Credit: PA

Presidium Network said it is not in touch with or acting for Mr Routledge, who was airlifted out of Afghanistan in 2021 by the British military during the fall of Kabul.

According to his social media channels, he appears to have made a number of visits since to Afghanistan.

An account claiming to belong to the Taliban’s public relations department had been tweeting about Mr Routledge throughout March, calling him a "beloved brother" and denying rumours that he’d been arrested.

However, his accounts have been silent since the end of February.

A Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) spokesperson said: “We are working hard to secure consular contact with British nationals detained in Afghanistan and we are supporting families.”

The UK no longer has an embassy or a consulate in Afghanistan following the Taliban's takeover of the country in August 2021.

The FCDO continues to advise against all travel to Afghanistan based on the security risks, including detention.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...