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Abducted Italian reporter appeals for freedom on video

Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan last week has appeared in a video shown on television Wednesday appealing to Premier Romano Prodi to work for his release.

TV grab from Euronews shows an image from video footage, received by non govenmental organisation Emergency, of Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo who was abducted 10 days ago by a Taliban militants in Afghanistan. Mastrogiacomo indicated that he was well, stated his name, the date of March 12, 2007 and said that he was confident that his ordeal would finish well.

Rome newspaper La Repubblica said Italian authorities were given the video in which the daily’s reporter, Mastrogiacomo, appeared alone, with his shoulders and the back of his head covered with a checkered Afghan headscarf.

The video was provided to Italian outlets by Italian humanitarian group Emergency, which describes itself as “independent and neutral,” offering medical assistance to people wounded in war.

“My name is Daniele Mastrogiacomo. I’m a journalist for La Repubblica newspaper. I’m here in Afghanistan. My father’s name is Mario, my mother’s name is Franca Lisa. Today is Monday, March 12th and it’s 8 o’clock a.m., here in Afghanistan,” the journalist said on the film.

“I’m under detention... I’ve been arrested by a Taliban group. They believe that we (myself and two other Afghan colleagues) have entered illegaly into their territory. So, now I’m addressing the Italian government and Mr President Romano Prodi, in order to ask them to do everything in their power, to act with all their means in order to obtain our freedom as soon as possible... so that we should no longer be in this situation... in a word... that we be released...

“I’m also speaking to my wife Luisella and my daughter and son Alice and Michele: be calm, there’s no problem. You’ll see that your father will be able to work it out, anyway. I believe this is a situation... they arrested me because I was in Taliban territory. I think they will soon release me. Obviously you have to be just a little patient. And I’m sure you are all with me. Thank you for all you’re tryng to do for me. Thank you,” he said.

Luisella Longo, wife of kidnapped Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, attends a demonstration of solidarity at Campidoglio square in Rome March 8, 2007. Italian newspaper La Repubblica has denied that Mastrogiacomo who was abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan was a spy. (Reuters/Tony Gentile)

Mastrogiacomo, a journalist with 27 years of experience who was on assignment for the Italian daily, was abducted in southern Afghanistan. He was taken sometime on or after March 4, when he last contacted editors. A Taliban group is believed to be holding him and two assistants, Sayed Agha and a man identified only as Ajmal. Helmand, the province where they were was seized, is in the midst of the heaviest round of fighting between US, NATO, and Taliban forces since the US-led invasion of 2001.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported from Islamabad that it had contacted Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi by telephone at an unknown location. Ahmadi reportedly said that Mastrogiacomo “is in good health and is being kept in a Taliban base. We have been in indirect contact with the Italians.”

The Taliban, speaking to journalists through several spokesmen, have offered different versions of Mastrogiacomo’s captivity and prospects for release. They have said they are investigating whether the reporter was a spy; they have called for the withdrawal of Italian troops operating with NATO forces in the country; and they offered to exchange Mastrogiacomo for two Taliban detained by Afghan authorities.

Prodi’s office said in a statement that the government was “united and determined to work for the freedom of the journalist as rapidly as possible.” Prodi met the Italian foreign and defence ministers about the video. Prodi said Italy was following the case, but that the country’s military mission in Afghanistan remained unchanged.

Italy has been resisting NATO urging to reinforce its 1,800 soldiers in Afghanistan, saying it is already committed to other peacekeeping operations, including a leading role in Lebanon.

La Repubblica, where Mastrogiacomo has worked since 2002 as a staff correspondent in Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, and Iraq, has posted Web pages in English and Italian, with more than 50,000 signatures calling for his release. The pages have a downloadable picture of Mastrogiacomo with a call for his release in English and Arabic.

Mastrogiacomo’s kidnapping has generated messages of support from around the world. More than 30 Afghan journalists signed a petition circulated by the independent Pajhwok Afghan News calling for Mastrogiacomo’s release.

Date posted: March 15, 2007 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 3898