Kidnappers who seized an Italian photojournalist in Afghanistan last week are offering to release him in return for an Afghan Christian now living in Italy.

The Afghan man, a convert to Christianity, fled his homeland earlier this year after he was charged with leaving Islam, an offense punishable by death.  He subsequently was granted asylum in Italy.

A hospital in Afghanistan operated by an Italian aid agency (Emergency) was contacted this week by the kidnappers, who said they would release their captive if the Afghan Christian (Abdul Rahman) is returned to his home country.

Photographer Gabriele Torsello was kidnapped in Helmand province last week.  Authorities there blamed the abduction on the Taleban, but the radical Islamist group denies any involvement in the Italian's abduction.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.