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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taliban Detains EU Commissioner

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Armed religious police of the purist Islamic Taliban arrested European Union Commissioner Emma Bonino and 18 other people for some 3 1/2 hours Monday before releasing them and apologizing.


Bonino later told reporters she had been frightened by the experience.


"I was scared because they were fully armed and had Kalashnikovs [assault rifles] pointed at us," Bonino told reporters in Kabul shortly after her release.


Bonino was arrested on a visit to a women's hospital in Kabul. The Taliban accused journalists with her of taking photographs of women, an offense under Taliban regulations.


Bonino said that the experience had given her a taste of what Afghans go through every day.


"This is an example of how people live here every day: in a situation of random terror," said Bonino.


She said that she had been threatened by the religious policemen.


"I have been threatened by a guy with a Kalashnikov. The situation was very tense for some time," she said.


Bonino's spokesman said that the journalists accompanying Bonino were unaware of the restrictions on filming and stopped as soon as they were asked to.


"[Bonino] went upstairs to talk to the director [of the clinic], meanwhile the press had entered the wards -- no one had told her not to -- they had been filming for 10 minutes and when they were told to stop they packed up," said spokesman Filippo di Robilant.


He said one aid worker had been hit by the religious police.


All 19 were released after the television crews accompanying Bonino agreed to hand over a number of video cassettes.


Security official Hajji Habibullah said earlier that Bonino and the others had been "arrested because they didn't have any letters from the authorities and they were taking pictures of women."


"It is the policy of the Taliban that no unrelated man may take pictures of women. They were brought in for this offense. The head of the hospital came to complain to us that they were taking pictures," he said.


The Taliban have banned all photographs of living beings, saying they are un-Islamic.


When they captured Kabul last September, they tore tape from video and music cassettes and used it to festoon checkpoints.


A European Commission spokesman in Brussels said Bonino had received apologies from the Afghan authorities.


Bonino was in Kabul for a 24-hour visit to assess the effect of the $40 million that the European Union has given for emergency aid in Afghanistan.


Taliban forces Monday captured the opposition-held northern airport of Mazar-i-Sharif, a Pakistan-based Afghan news service said.


The Afghan Islamic Press quoted a Taliban spokesman as saying Taliban forces were advancing towards Mazar-i-Sharif city, the opposition capital, after the taking the airport some eight kilometers to the east.


Taliban troops had captured the Mazar airport Sept. 9, but later was forced to retreat.