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Italian scribe well, say Taliban

The Taliban says it has made indirect contacts with Daniele Mastrogiacomo.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Kandahar
UPDATED ON MAR 13, 2007 01:36 PM IST

A Taliban spokesman said on Tuesday there had been "indirect contacts" with Italian officials about a journalist kidnapped 10 days ago whom the militants have threatened to kill.

The journalist, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, was in good health, and being kept with two Afghans he was captured with on March 4, at a Taliban "base" in the southern province of Helmand, Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told the agency.

"He's in a good health and being kept in a Taliban base," Ahmadi said in a telephone call from an unknown location. "We have been in indirect contacts with the Italians over this."

The Italian foreign ministry said Saturday it believed the 52-year-old was alive, based on news received from reliable sources.

Officials said they also had "credible" information about those responsible for the kidnapping, adding: "Contacts are ongoing in order to establish with certainty the intentions and expectations of the kidnappers."

Taliban operations commander for southern Afghanistan, Mullah Dadullah, told the agency in an interview Sunday that the La Repubblica journalist would be killed in seven days unless Taliban demands were met.

These included a date being set for the withdrawal of nearly 2,000 Italian troops in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the release of two Taliban spokesmen being held in the country.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said on Sunday that the country's soldiers would remain in Afghanistan despite the threat.

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