Taliban claim responsibility for kidnapping of Italian journalist

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Flag flown by the Taliban.

Taliban forces have claimed responsibility for the March 5 kidnapping of Italian Daniele Mastrogiacomo. Mr. Mastrogiacomo, who works as a journalist and reporter for the Italian daily La Repubblica, was reported missing by the paper three days before the Taliban claimed they had taken him hostage.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims he speaks for the Taliban, has told the Associated press that they "Are investigating whether they are British spies". Mr. Ahmadi has also said that the milita had captured a man claiming to be a Briton who worked for La Repubblica. Ahmadi then claimed "The man we arrested is an Italian and he told us he worked for the Rome-based La Repubblica newspaper," and when asked to identify the man Ahamdi responded with a text message which said "Danikel"

The Italian ambassador in Kabul has asked for proof that Mr. Mastrogiacomo is still alive before any negotiations can get underway. Mastrogriacomo, who is a father of two, was on assignment in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, and had not been heard from since Sunday. The Italian journalist was kidnapped along with two Afghan's, who Ahmadi has identified as Sayed Agha and Ajmal, with only one name given for the latter. Afghan officials have claimed they have no knowledge of the kidnappings.

La Repubblica newspaper said that Mastrogiacomo, 52, was born in Karachi, Pakistan, where his father worked as an engineer for an Italian company. He has dual Swiss-Italian citizenship, but only was carrying his Italian passport with him. Mr. Mastrogiacomo, who speaks English, has worked in the middle east in Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq since 2002 as a staff correspondent.

Executive director Joel Simon of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has stated it was "greatly concerned about the welfare of our coleaugue Daniele Mastrogiamoco, who was doing his job documenting the news," and continued "We call on those holding any members of the press to release them unharmed immediately."

This kidnapping comes four months after the release of fellow Italian photographer Gabriele Torsello. Torsello was kidnapped on October 12th of last year while travelling by bus from Lashkar Gah to Kandahar. When the man was released on November 3rd, he said he had no idea who had kidnapped him.


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