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Kidnapped Photographer OK



An aid group said Monday that the kidnappers of an Italian photographer in Afghanistan had reassured it of the hostage's good health, a day after a reported deadline for the captors' demands to be met expired.

Gabriele Torsello and his Afghan translator were kidnapped Oct. 14 as they drove from Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Helmand province, toward neighboring Kandahar.

The Italian aid group Emergency runs a hospital in the area and has been in contact with Torsello and his purported abductors, who apparently demanded that Rome withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of Ramadan, which ended Sunday night.

"(The kidnappers) said Torsello is fine, they gave assurances on his health condition," said Maso Notarianni, head of PeaceReporter, an online daily that has been handling media on behalf of Emergency. PeaceReporter is affiliated with Emergency.

Torsello was not put on the phone during Monday's call, but the contact was still good news, he said.

"Clearly the fact that they said today that he is fine is an indication that the deadline has been at least postponed," Notarianni told The Associated Press by telephone.

Before demanding the withdrawal of Italy's 1,800 troops, the kidnappers reportedly requested the return of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan who had faced the death penalty for converting to Christianity and was granted asylum in Italy.

Italian authorities have been trying to verify the various demands made through Emergency.

Torsello is said to have converted to Islam, and his family on Monday called on the kidnappers to celebrate the end of Ramadan by freeing their relative.

"Today is a day of joy for them," Torsello's mother, Vittoria Augenti, told reporters. "May they celebrate together with Gabriele."


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