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Abducted Italian scribe's driver killed in Afghanistan

The driver was killed as he was confirmed to be a spy for foreign military forces.
Reuters | By HT Correspondent, Rome
UPDATED ON MAR 16, 2007 04:03 PM IST

One of two Afghan nationals kidnapped with Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo in Afghanistan last week has been killed, Italy's ANSA news agency said on Friday, quoting a Taliban fighter.

"His throat was slit at 7 am because he was confirmed to be a spy for foreign military forces," ANSA quoted Ibrahim Hanifi as saying. The dead man is believed to have been Mastrogiacomo's driver.

Hanifi also said the Italian and the other Afghan, the reporter's translator, would be released if the Afghan government agreed to release three Taliban prisoners.

Afghan news agency Pajhwok quoted Shahabodin Atal, described as a "purported spokesman" for the Taliban, saying the fate of the two remaining hostages would be decided by Friday evening.

The Italian Foreign Ministry said it was trying to verify the report and could make no further comment at this stage.

Mastrogiacomo and his two colleagues were seized in the lawless southern province of Helmand and the Taliban said he confessed to spying for British troops.

His newspaper, La Repubblica, denied the reporter was a spy and said the Karachi-born man had been writing for them since 1980 and reporting from Afghanistan since February 28.

Mastrogiacomo appeared in a video released on Wednesday, appealing to the Italian government to work for his release. In an audio message released on Thursday he said his captors would kill him unless their demands were met within two days.

It had been reported that the Taliban were demanding Italy withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and the release of one of their spokesmen captured in January.

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