Australian couple detained in Iran named as travel bloggers

Australia first revealed on Wednesday that three of its citizens had been seized by authorities in Tehran. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 September 2019

Australian couple detained in Iran named as travel bloggers

  • Perth-based Jolie King and Mark Firkin had been documenting their journey on social media for the past two years
  • “Our families hope to see Mark and Jolie safely home as soon as possible,” a statement said

SYDNEY: Two Australians detained in Iran were named on Thursday as a travel-blogging couple who were arrested while making an overland trip from their home country to Britain.
Perth-based Jolie King and Mark Firkin had been documenting their journey on social media for the past two years but went silent after posting updates from Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan about 10 weeks ago.
“Our families hope to see Mark and Jolie safely home as soon as possible,” a statement released on behalf of their relatives said.
Before setting off, the couple had written on their blog that they “can’t wait to share all of our experiences and the beauty of all the different destinations and countries we will be visiting.”
Australia first revealed on Wednesday that three of its citizens had been seized by authorities in Tehran.
The Times of London reported the third person was a British-Australian academic who studied at Cambridge University and was working as a lecturer in Australia when she was arrested in Iran nearly a year ago.
News of the arrests came after Australia announced it would join a US-led mission to protect shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, with tensions high in the Gulf region.
The Times also reported that King and the other woman were being held in Tehran’s Evin prison and that one of them had been told she was being held as part of a plan to facilitate a prisoner swap.
Already difficult relations between Iran and the US — and American allies — have threatened to boil over since President Donald Trump in 2018 abandoned a deal to limit Tehran’s nuclear program, and Iran resumed some proscribed nuclear activities.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month announced a “modest” Australian contribution to the US-led Gulf mission — including a frigate, a P8 maritime surveillance aircraft and support staff — which will also involve British forces.
Asked about detained Australians, Morrison said Thursday the government would “continue to pursue these matters in the interests of the Australians at the center of these cases.”
“We will do that carefully and we will do that in close consultation through our officials who have been part of this process now for some time,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance to the detained trio and has urged Australians to reconsider traveling to Iran.
Earlier this week, the Australian government updated its travel advice for Iran to “reconsider your need to travel” and “do not travel” to areas near the border with Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was not immediately clear if any of the three have been charged.


Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

Updated 19 min 13 sec ago

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

  • Joint operations planned to prevent attacks ahead of polls

KABUL: Afghan forces backed by US forces killed two senior Taliban leaders and at least 38 fighters of the hard-line insurgent group in joint airstrikes conducted in northern and western regions of Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The operations, launched on Saturday night, were aimed at foiling attacks planned by the Taliban on Afghan forces, said a senior security official in capital Kabul, adding that clashes have escalated following the collapse of diplomatic talks between the US and the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry in a statement said that the Taliban’s designate governor for northern Samangan province, Mawlavi Nooruddin, was killed along with four fighters in an airstrike in Dara-e-Soof Payeen district.

But the Taliban denied the governor had been killed.

“He (Nooruddin) is alive,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

HIGHLOW

  • Taliban deny the governor of Samangan province had been killed.
  • Last week, insurgents killed four Afghan special force members in a car bomb blast.
  • Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day.

In a separate incident, Mullah Sayed Azim, a Taliban designate governor for Anar Dara district in western Farah was killed in a joint Afghan and foreign force raid.

“Sayed Azim was killed along with 34 other insurgents in Anar Dara,” said Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for Farah provincial police.

Senior security officials in Kabul said several joint operations will be launched against Taliban and Daesh fighters to prevent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians ahead of the presidential polls on Sept. 28.

Fighting picked up in several parts of Afghanistan last week after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancelation of talks with the Taliban aimed at withdrawing US troops and opening the way to end to 18 year-long war in Afghanistan. 

 

Troops for polling day

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 72,000 security personnel will be on duty around the 4,942 polling centers across Afghanistan while nearly 30,000 additional troops will serve as reserve units.

Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said security forces have recently taken back eight districts from the Taliban and that operations are underway to secure around 20 others.