Update (1621 EST): The two American nationals have arrived in Qatar.
The two Americans freed by the Taliban, first reported by @kylieatwood and @halbritz, are no longer en route and have now arrived in Qatar, a diplomat familiar with the matter tells me
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) December 20, 2022
The Taliban have reportedly released two US nationals, including filmmaker Ivor Shearer, who was arrested on August 17th, 2022. Ivor Shearer and Afghan producer Faizullah Faizbakhsh were filming near the site of the drone strike that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri on July 31, 2022 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Due to the embarrassment of publicly acknowledging the presence of the al-Qaeda leader in Kabul, a media blackout was enacted at the scene.
New: Two Americans who had been detained by the Taliban in Afghanistan have been released and are en route to Qatar, per 3 sources familiar with the matter. One of the Americans is a filmmaker Ivor Shearer, sources said w/ @halbritz.
— Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) December 20, 2022
The two men were detained by security forces near the scene, who had strict orders to stem to flow of pedestrians, especially journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, this is how the arrest unfolded:
“The guards questioned them about their activities and checked their work permits, ID cards, and passports; they then confiscated the journalists’ cellphones, detained them for a couple of hours, and repeatedly called them “American spies,” according to the journalists familiar with the case.
The security officers then called Taliban intelligence; around 50 armed intelligence operatives arrived, who blindfolded Shearer and Faizbakhsh and transferred them to an unknown location, the journalists familiar with the case said. ”
Shearer had arrived in Afghanistan in February 2022 on a one-month visa after receiving permission from the Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs to produce a documentary on the last 40 years of Afghanistan. By march, the Taliban had extended his permit to one year. However, by mid-June, the relationship had soured and Shearer had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry and also had agents sent to his dwelling. The Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi reportedly became suspicious of his activities in Kabul and probably played some role in his arrest and imprisonment.