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Italy Steps Up Efforts to Secure Release of Journalist Abducted in Afghanistan


The Italian government has stepped up efforts to obtain the release of a journalist from La Repubblica newspaper, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan 11 days ago. Media reports say the Taleban claim to have killed one of two Afghans abducted with the journalist. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome, the kidnappers have said they will grant authorities more time to comply with their conditions.

The kidnappers of Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo had set Friday as the deadline for the release of three Taleban prisoners. This is their key condition for the release of the journalist from La Repubblica newspaper.

The Taleban have also requested that Italy withdraw its 1,900 troops based in Afghanistan. On Friday, Taleban spokesman Mullah Ibrahim Hanifi told news media more time would be granted to the authorities to comply with its requests.

Hanifi also said the Afghan driver was killed on Thursday. News of the killing further raised concerns in Italy over the fate of the journalist and his Afghan interpreter.

The Italian government has increased its efforts to find a way to secure the release of the journalist, who had traveled to southern Afghanistan to interview Taleban leaders. Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he met with visiting Afghan lawmakers and discussed the kidnapping.

Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said after a Cabinet meeting Friday that authorities have multiplied their efforts to find the path to a solution and to obtain the release of Daniele Mastrogiacomo.

"Contacts are under way," he said. "This is a complex matter, which requires contacts between different governments and institutions, and cannot be resolved in just a few hours."

Time is needed, he added, reiterating Italy's firm commitment to reach a solution.

The Taleban initially accused Mastrogiacomo, 53, who was born in Pakistan and speaks English, of being a spy. Hanifi said the journalist had initially confessed to being a spy for British troops, which his newspaper's editor strongly denied.

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