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Austrian Activist Detained 9 Months in Afghanistan Released by Taliban

Herbert Fritz was arrested in May last year

In Doha, Qatar, Austrian far-right extremist Herbert Fritz, linked to the far-right scene, was released by the Taliban after spending nine months in detention in Afghanistan. Fritz, 84, visited Afghanistan to challenge travel warnings and published an article titled "Vacations with the Taliban" via a far-right media outlet, aiming to prove the country's safety. Arrested in May, he faced suspicion of espionage. Austrian authorities expressed gratitude to Qatar for facilitating his release and mentioned the possibility of Fritz receiving medical care in Doha before returning home.

Fritz, known for his penchant for visiting "dangerous" places, had previously traveled to Afghanistan in the 1980s and eastern Ukraine in recent years. His arrest raised questions about the motives behind his travel reports, with suggestions that they might aim to portray Afghanistan as a safe country for the return of Afghan refugees.

Upon arrival in Doha, Fritz spoke to reporters, describing his ordeal as "bad luck" but expressing a desire to visit again. He acknowledged encountering both friendly and foolish people during his captivity.

Notably, Fritz has a history of engaging with controversial figures. He reportedly met Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, currently imprisoned in Turkey, and visited fighters of the People's Protection Units (YPG), the main component of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria. The YPG is viewed by Turkey as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), designated a terrorist organization by Ankara and several Western allies.

The circumstances surrounding Fritz's release and the nature of his activities in Afghanistan raise complex questions about his intentions and the potential implications of his travel reports. The Austrian authorities' acknowledgment of Qatar's role in the release adds another layer to the narrative, emphasizing international dynamics in the situation.

 

Feb. 26, 2024 12:10 p.m. 1689

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