[QODLink]
Central & South Asia
Reporter 'in Afghan elders' hands'
Taliban threaten to recapture Italian journalist if third Taliban member not freed.
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2007 12:22 GMT
Mastrogiacomo and his two colleagues were seized in the southern province of Helmand last week [AFP]
Afghanistan's Taliban have said they handed an Italian journalist captured two weeks ago to tribal elders after two Taliban members were freed.
 
The group, however, threatened to take him back if a third Taliban member was not released.
Earlier reports on Sunday said that veteran correspondent Daniele Mastrogiacomo, 52, had been released but his employer, Rome-based La Repubblica newspaper, said it did not have confirmation.
 
Italian and Afghan officials also could not confirm the report.

"We'll consider him free when he's safely in Italian hands," an Italian foreign ministry spokesman in Rome said.

 

'Recapture' threat

  

Ettore Francesco Sequi, The ambassador in Kabul, also said he had no evidence of the release.

  

Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP that Mastrogiacomo and his Afghan translator were handed to elders in Helmand province after the government freed two members of the group, Latif Hakimi and Ustad Yasar.

  

But the Taliban also wanted another man, spokesman Mohammad Hanif, arrested in October, to be freed.

  

Ahmadi said: "Today, Hakimi and Yasar were released and we too handed over the journalist and his Afghan friend to the tribal elders. If Hanif is not released, we'll take back the journalists.

  

"Once Hanif is released, the elders can take the Italian anywhere he wishes to go - we'll let him go."

  

The interior ministry and an intelligence agency spokesman said on Sunday they were not aware of any agreement to free any Taliban in custody.

  

The Italian embassy in Kabul also was unaware of any such agreement.

 

Execution threat

   

A provincial official confirmed the two Taliban were released late on Saturday night.

 

The pair were arrested in Pakistan in 2005 and later handed to Kabul.

 

Media reports said Mastrogiacomo's driver was executed on Thursday.

   

The Taliban had threatened to execute the journalist unless its demands were met.

 

On Saturday, they extended their deadline to give Rome more time to respond.

   

Mastrogiacomo and his two colleagues were seized in the southern province of Helmand last week, where NATO and Afghan forces this month launched a major offensive, and the Taliban said he had confessed to spying for British troops.

 

La Repubblica denied he was a spy and said he had been working for it since 1980.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
Influential independence figure has been key in promoting Scottish nationalism, but will his efforts succeed?
Teenage phenom with quick hands and a passion for boxing has reminded many of the great Filipino fighter at a young age.
Families of Britons killed in 2013 siege at gas plant in Algeria frustrated by inquiry delay over 'sensitive' materials.
Rhinoceros beetles once drew 40,000 visitors each year to Tamura city, but nuclear disaster has decimated beetle mania.
In run-up to US midterm elections, backers of immigration law changes disappointed by postponement of executive action.
join our mailing list