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Italian Photojournalist Released
Associated Press Writer



An Italian photographer kidnapped in Afghanistan last month has been freed and is in good health, Italy's ambassador said Friday.

Gabriele Torsello and his Afghan translator were kidnapped in mid-October while traveling from Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Helmand province, toward neighboring Kandahar.

Ettore Francesco Sequi, Italy's ambassador to Afghanistan, said authorities at an Italian-run hospital in Helmand province received a phone call telling them to go to a location on the road linking Lashkar Gah and Kandahar. It was there that an Afghan staff member of the hospital found Torsello, he said.

Torsello is in good health and would travel back to Kabul, where he could arrive sometime Sunday, Sequi said.

Maj. Luke Knittig, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said the military was helping transport Torsello back to Kabul by air, but he didn't know when he would arrive.

"We are making air assets available to Italian authorities, but it's really their show," he said. "You know there is a process of health care and debriefing ... and that's not beholden to a strict timeline."

Sequi said he didn't think that a ransom was paid for Torsello's release.

"I really doubt it, so my reply is no," he said.

Torsello's kidnappers had asked for the withdrawal of Italy's 1,800 troops from Afghanistan, and for the return of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan who had faced the death penalty for converting to Christianity and was granted asylum in Italy.

Sequi said he couldn't yet say who had kidnapped Torsello and that officials needed to speak with him and then make a "careful assessment." His kidnappers had originally claimed to be Taliban militants, but a spokesman for the Taliban later denied that insurgents had taken him.

Torsello, 36, who had converted to Islam, had earlier spent time in Musa Qala, another restive area in Helmand province, Afghan officials said. His passion for photography and travel had taken him to Albania, Pakistan, India, Libya, Nepal and Afghanistan.

Torsello lives in London, with his Austrian wife and their four-year-old son, also called Gabriele. He is a native of Alessano, in the southern region of Puglia.

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Associated Press reporter Maria Sanminiatelli contributed to this report from Rome.


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