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Central & South Asia
Taliban 'abducts' Italian reporter
Afghan officials say they have no information on the alleged kidnapping.
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2007 09:05 GMT
Mastrogiacomo has been missing in Afghanistan since Sunday [AP] 
The Taliban has said it has kidnapped an Italian journalist, three days after an Italian newspaper lost touch with a reporter in south Afghanistan.
 
A Taliban spokesman said the group was holding a man who described himself as a Briton working for daily La Repubblica, the same paper that raised concern over its reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo.
"The man we arrested is an Italian and he told us he worked for the Rome-based La Repubblica newspaper," Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a man who claims to speak for the Taliban, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
 
Asked to identify the Italian, Ahmadi sent a text message with the name "Danikel".

In Italy, the paper said it had not heard from Mastrogiacomo since Sunday.

 

The reporter had been on assignment in Kandahar, the Taliban's former stronghold in southern Afghanistan, editor-in-chief Ezio Mauro said, according to La Repubblica's Web site.

 

Spy claim

 

Massimo D'Alema, the Italian foreign minister said on Italy's Tg1 television news on Tuesday that officials did not believe Mastrogiacomo was "in the hands of a bunch of stragglers, but was effectively captured by the Taliban's military structure".

 

The ministry and the Italian Embassy in Kabul were trying to find the reporter.

 

Ahmadi said the journalist had been captured on Monday along with two Afghans as they traveled together by vehicle in Nad Ali district of Helmand province.

 

"Taliban higher authorities" will decide what to do with them, Ahmadi said: "We are investigating whether they are British spies."

 

He identified the Afghans as Sayed Agha and Ajmal, giving only one name for the second Afghan.

 

Ahmadi said the captured reporter had introduced himself as a Briton who had worked for La Repubblica in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, but had been living with British forces in Helmand and gathering information for them.

 

The British Foreign Office said later on Tuesday it appeared unlikely the missing journalist was one of its nationals.

 

La Repubblica newspaper said Mastrogiacomo, 52, was born in Karachi, Pakistan, where his father was an engineer for an Italian company.

 

He has dual Italian-Swiss citizenship, but was traveling only with his Italian passport, the paper said.

 

Appeal

 

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Mastrogiacomo, who speaks English, has worked since 2002 as a staff correspondent in Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq.

 

The Committee to Protect Journalists said it was "greatly concerned about the welfare of our colleague Daniele Mastrogiacomo, who was doing his job documenting the news".

 

"We call on those holding any members of the press to release them unharmed immediately," Joel Simon, the CPJ Executive Director, said in a statement issued in New York.

 

Afghan officials said they had no information on the alleged kidnapping.

 

Most of the NATO-led troops in Helmand are British, and the alliance on Tuesday launched largest offensive to date against fighters in the northern part of the province, a Taliban stronghold. 

Source:
Agencies
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