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Afghanistan 17 October 2006

Gabriele Torsello makes contact to report he is well but reasons for kidnapping still unclear

Reporters Without Borders said it was relieved to learn that Italian photographer Gabriele Torsello, abducted in Lashkar Gah, southern Afghanistan on 12 October, had been able to contact the aid organisation Emergency and had told them that he was well. He also said that he had been “moved to another area”, but his kidnappers have still not made any demands. Reporters Without Borders remains very concerned and calls for all possible means to be deployed to ensure that he is safely released.

15.10.06 Italian freelance photographer seized by armed men

Reporters Without Borders said today it was “very concerned” about the kidnapping of an Italian photographer, Gabriele Torsello, in southern Afghanistan and called for his immediate release.

“He is not a spy or a bargaining chip, but a courageous journalist who has lived among the Afghan people for several months,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said, calling on the authorities and the country’s religious leaders to make every effort to obtain his release.

Torsello, a freelance, was seized by five armed men from a bus on his way from Lashkar Gah to Kandahar on 12 October. The online news website Peace Reporter, which disclosed the kidnapping, said he had managed the same day to phone the head of security at a hospital in Lashkar Gah run by the Italian NGO Emergency to ask him to assure the kidnappers of his “good intentions” and that he had converted to Islam.

The independent Afghan news agency Pajhwok quoted an Afghan journalist who had been travelling with him as saying he had called Torsello’s mobile phone and that a man had answered and said “We are the Taliban and we have kidnapped the foreign spy.” The Italian foreign ministry said today it was treating the incident as a kidnapping.

Mullah Dadullah, a Taliban military chieftain, threatened on 4 September to kill journalists who published news put out by the NATO forces in Afghanistan. “We have an Islamic right to kill such reporters,” he said.

Torsello, who has worked as a photojournalist around the world for the past decade, has been in Afghanistan for several months, wearing a black beard and Afghan clothes. He is married with one child, has converted to Islam and is based in London.

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