Italian journalist freed by Afghan captors

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Location of Helmand Province within Afganistan

Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo was released by his Taliban captors in Afghanistan, Monday, after having been kidnapped and held hostage since March 5, 2007. Mastrogiacomo's intrepreter is believed to have been released as well, though no details are reported.

Mastrogiacomo, a reporter with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, was taken captive in Helmand Province along with his Afghan interpreter and his driver, while attempting to obtain interviews with members of the Taliban.

In a television interview after his release, Mastrogiacomo expressed his gratitude to those that worked for his release. "I'm very happy, I thank you all. I knew you wouldn't abandon me", said Mastrogiacomo.

He also described some horrors that he witnessed while in captivity. Syed Agha had been killed in front of him by their captors. "I saw him being decapitated, it was horrific", Mastrogiacomo recalled.

The driver, Syed Agha was reportedly decapitated by his captors for "spying" in the presence of Mastrogiacomo. Agha's family blockaded the hospital in Lashkar Gah where Mastrogiacomo was being treated, demanding to know what happened to Agha. For reasons still unclear, security forces arrested the head of that hospital, Rahamatullah Hanafi.

Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah told Reuters that the release of Mastrogiacomo and his interpreter was secured through the exchange of five senior Taliban members.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi suggested it was not a simple task to secure Mastrogiacomo's release, which was obtained with the help of Italian authorities, humanitarian officials and the Afghan government.

According to Italian officials, Mastrogiacomo is to travel to Kabul on Tuesday and then secure a flight to Italy.

This story has new developments.

Updated information can be found here