At a press conference on Friday arranged by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lord Ahmed said: “I was horrified to learn that he had been arrested by five bandits, who are holding him in Afghanistan, and I call upon these people to release him immediately and unconditionally.”
Lord Ahmed went on to vouch for Kash’s work and said that he met the Italian photographer at the Regents Park mosque. Kash converted to Islam several years ago.
“I have known Gabrielle Torsello, known to his friends as Kash, for eight years. He has worked extensively in Kashmir working and photographing the people there and I was pleased to be involved with his Book the Heart of Kashmir, for which I wrote the forward.
“I have remained in touch with Kash regularly around his visits to Afghanistan, and we meet at the Regents Park Mosque.”
Lord Ahmed also offered his assistance in securing Kash’s release and said that he would fly to Pakistan if necessary.
The captors last made contact on October 23 and said that Kash was still alive, although they did not allow any direct contact with him.
Pete Jenkins, a prominent British photographer who is in direct contact with Kash’s family, told Aljazeera that the kidnapping is particularly worrying because it is not yet clear who seized Kash.
“The scariest thing about this is that we just don’t know who we are dealing with. The captors claimed to be Taliban, but the local Taliban chief has denied any responsibility for the kidnapping,” he said.
It is also not clear how Kash was kidnapped. Some reports say that he was taken by five armed men from a bus. Others say he was in a hired car which Jenkins believes may have been a taxi.
“He was with an interpreter at the time. We know this because this is how the authorities were alerted. But the communication with the Italian government was initiated by the captors.”
All communication is being carried out by the Italian government.
Kash was kidnapped on October 12 wearing traditional Afghan dress.
He was last heard by phone on October 19, when he told negotiators: “The kidnappers tell me that I am a spy and that British troops bombed Musa Qala and Nawzad districts on intelligence I have provided.”
Italy’s largest Muslim group, the Union of Italian Islamic Communities (UCOII), said in a statement on Friday: “Free our brother Kash Torsello … he, like other journalists who work in war zones, record horror so it can be seen and stopped.”
The group said: “We would like to express its solidarity and closeness to the family members of the reporter Gabriele Torsello and to the entire country. We pray to God Almighty, of having the chance to see Gabriele safe and sound again, back with his family.”
The Italian government have not responded to the demands of the kidnappers, the first of which was that an Afghan Chrisitian convert, who is being held in Italy be handed over, and the second was for the Italian Nato contingent to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Jenkins said: “The first deadline has passed, the Italian government has not responded to the demands of the kidnappers.
“There is some information coming from the local Pashtun people and we are hoping that we can shed some light on the situation very soon.”