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Afghanistan 25 October 2006

Kidnappers say Italian photographer still in good health

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An official at Lashkar Gah hospital was able to speak to Gabriele Torsello’s abductors on 23 October. They did not let Torsello speak but they said he was in good health. This would indicate that the 22 October deadline is now defunct.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, meanwhile told the Afghan news agency Pajhwok that the kidnappers should “free their hostage because it is not fair to hit at Italy by killing an innocent journalist.” He added that, “the kidnappers are just bandits interested in money.” This would suggest that their original demands might have been just a way of introducing a ransom request.


Hundreds call for Italian photographer’s unconditional release

More than 300 journalists and press freedom activists have signed a petition for the unconditional release of Gabriele Torsello, the Italian freelance photographer held hostage in Afghanistan, Reporters Without Borders said today. Usually known in the profession as Kash, we have received no word about him after the deadline set by his abductors expired on Sunday evening (22 October).

“We repeat our solemn appeal to Torsello’s abductors to free him,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This Italian photographer, who has covered the hardships of the Afghan, Nepalese and Kashmiri peoples, can in no way be held responsible for the policies of his country of origin. The end of Ramadan should encourage his kidnappers to make a gesture of tolerance in his favour.”

On 18 October, Torsello’s kidnappers demanded the departure of Italian troops from Afghanistan, promising to free him in return. Italian foreign minister Arturo Parisi ruled out this possibility the next day, pointing out that Italy’s soldiers are there at the request of the Afghan authorities.

Torsello’s family issued an appeal for his release on 18 October, while British parliamentarian Nazir Ahmed also called on his kidnappers to free him, pointing out that he knows Torsello personally. Ahmed, who is of Pakistani origin, confirmed in an interview for that Torsello is a Muslim convert.

Torsello was kidnapped by five gunmen as he was travelling by bus from Lashkar Gah to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan on 12 October. Since then, he has been in telephone contact several times with personnel at a hospital in Lashkar Gah run by the Italian NGO Emergency.

A freelance journalist who has visited many parts of the world over the past ten years, Torsello had been travelling within Afghanistan for several months wearing a black beard and Afghan clothes. Aged 36, married and the father of one child, he now lives in London.

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