Ms Bonino said she was threatened with a rifle, while others of her party were beaten. After her release she accused the Taliban of making up their religious rules as they went along. But the incident, which an embarrassed European Commission tried to play down, could earn the Italian commissioner a rap on the knuckles from some EU governments for whom her latest brush with controversy will come as one publicity stunt too many. An EU spokesman suggested the incident may have been a "mundane event" blown out of proportion.
The joke going round EU headquarters was not that the Taliban had arrested Ms Bonino but that they dared to detain her. The Italian's style has left many, from Spanish fishermen to senior UN officials, regretting they took her on. A tiny bespectacled woman whose chain-smoking and habitual trouser- wearing alone would have been grounds for arrest under Taliban rules, the humanitarian affairs commissioner was in Kabul to oversee the spending by aid groups of cash earmarked by the EU for humanitarian projects.