Kabul: An Afghan journalist detained by coalition forces for allegedly spreading Taliban propaganda has been freed, a local government spokesman said on Friday. The release follows an outcry from media workers and an order from President Hamid Karzai to investigate the detention.
Al-Jazeera cameraman Mohammad Nadir, who was arrested on Wednesday in the southern city of Kandahar, was one of three Afghan journalists detained over the past week — two by the coalition and Afghan security forces and a third by the Afghan intelligence service.
NATO says it has information linking the men to networks that act as a mouthpiece for the Taliban and spread insurgent propaganda.
Nadir was let go early Friday, said Zelmai Ayubi, spokesman for the provincial governor of Kandahar. NATO was not able to immediately confirm the release.
In addition to Nadir, Hojatullah Mujadadi, a radio station manager in Kapisa province north of Kabul, was arrested by Afghan agents. Rahmatullah Naikzad, who has worked for Al-Jazeera and as a freelancer for a news agency, was detained by coalition forces in the eastern town of Ghazni, and Nadir was arrested in the southern city of Kandahar.
The arrests sparked an angry reaction by Afghan media workers, journalism advocates and human rights groups. Karzai called on Thursday for their quick release.
NATO has defended the detentions, but the alliance`s secretary-general on Thursday said he was open to their release if they are found innocent.
"We are in Afghanistan to fight for basic principles like free speech and a free media, and I am a strong defender of that," Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on the sidelines of the annual UN summit in New York. He said the cases will be handled fairly.
Separately, NATO reported on Friday that coalition forces conducted an airstrike in Kabul province on Thursday, killing Qari Mansur, a senior Haqqani operator who was linked, along with five of his associates, to an attack against an Afghan National Police unit earlier in the week. The Haqqani network is a Pakistan-based faction of the Taliban with close ties to al Qaeda.
The coalition said it tracked Mansur to a remote valley east of the Afghan capital and then conducted the airstrike. Afghan police could not get to the area because of a suspected mine field, but both Afghan and coalition forces said all six insurgents were killed.
"Qari Mansur was one of the most prolific attack planners for the Kabul insurgent network," said US Army Col Rafael Torres, a lead spokesman for the coalition.
Nadir, the cameraman, was detained about 4 am on Wednesday at his home in the southern city of Kandahar. Coalition troops woke up his wife and forcibly removed him from his bedroom as they searched the house, Al-Jazeera said in a statement.
Naikzad was arrested in his home on Monday. NATO said three grenades, magazines and a "significant number of AK-47 rounds" were found in the compound where he was detained.
It is common for Afghans to keep weapons for self-protection.
The coalition said they suspected Naikzad of working with the Taliban to spread insurgent propaganda and film attacks tied to the parliamentary elections held last weekend.