The Afghan news agency Pajhwok named the journalist just as Gabriele and reported that a call to his mobile phone had been answered by someone who said: "We are the Taliban and we have abducted the foreigner on charges of spying."

The Italian online newspaper PeaceReporter, which specialises in reports from conflict zones, said Gabriele Torsello had confirmed by phone that he had been kidnapped.

PeaceReporter said that Torsello had spoken briefly on the phone to the head of security at a hospital in Lashkar Gah run by the Italian relief organisation Emergency. He said he did not know where he was being held.

According to PeaceReporter, Torsello said he had been kidnapped on Thursday, while travelling on a public bus.


Pajhwok quoted Gholam Mohammad, who said he had been travelling with the journalist, as saying that they had been stopped by five gunmen on the road from the capital of Helmand province to the capital of neighbouring Kandahar province.

The Italian military in Rome said Torsello was based in London and had been working in southern Afghanistan, and could not be contacted at present.

The Italian embassy in Kabul said it had not heard of a kidnapping and Afghan officials could not be reached immediately for comment.