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Central & South Asia
Italy troops missing in Afghanistan
Search continues for soldiers and their Afghan staff amid fears of a kidnapping.
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2007 18:52 GMT
The Italian troops were working in Herat province when they went missing
A search is continuing in western Afghanistan for two Italian soldiers, with Italy's defence ministry saying that they have been seized.
 
Two Afghan individuals working as staff for the soliders returned to Herat city in Herat province late Sunday, but the whereabouts of the soldiers are unknown.
"We think that they [the Italian soliders] were kidnapped with two Afghans," Italy's defence ministry said before the Afghans returned.
 
Afghan police earlier said they were searching across Herat province for two Italian nationals and two Afghans who had not been heard from for nearly 24 hours.
The Afghans returned to Herat city late Sunday, and will be interviewed on Monday, said Ali Khan Husseinzada, a regional police chief.
 
"We have not questioned them yet but we will summon them tomorrow to question them about the Italians," he said.
 
Italy has about 2,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).
 
Police search
 
The Afghans who have gone missing with the Italian soldiers are thought to be working as an interpreter and a driver.
 
The four individuals had travelled to Shindand district where the Taliban fighters are active, Husseinzada said before the Afghans thought to be missing returned to Herat city.
 
Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said he did not know anything about the missing men.
 
Intelligence reports said the four had driven from Herat city in two vehicles on Saturday and then left one of them in Shindand's Azizabad area.
 
"Then they drove in an unknown direction. Since then we've not heard of them," Husseinzada said earlier on Sunday.
 
"Right now we're searching for them. We're looking into where they might have gone or if they've been kidnapped," he said.
 
Previous captures
 
Rome came under criticism from Nato member countries earlier this year for allegedly entering into a deal with Taliban representatives to secure the release of Daniele Mastrogiacomo, an Italian journalist.
 
Mastrogiacomo was freed by Taliban fighters in March after being held for three weeks.
 
The Afghan government released five Taliban members from prison, but Mastrogiacomo’s interpreter and a driver were beheaded.
 
At least two other Italians have been captured in Afghanistan in recent years.
 
In October, Gabriele Torsello, a photojournalist, was abducted by fighters in the southern province of Helmand and held for three weeks.
 
Clementina Cantoni, an Italian aid worker, was captured in May 2005 by a criminal gang in Kabul and released after 24 days.
Source:
Agencies
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