Gabriele Torsello

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Gabriele Torsello (also known as "Kash") is an Italian freelance journalist and photojournalist based in London who was abducted in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on 12 October 2006. Torsello, a Muslim convert, was released on 3 November 2006. He is author of The Heart of Kashmir.[1][2]

Kidnapping[edit]

Torsello was abducted in Helmand on 12 October 2006 and released on 3 November 2006. He was travelling on a bus from Helmand to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan when he was seized. His translator Ghulam Mohammad was left unharmed.[3]

His captors moved him into a different location: "They arrived and opened the door. One of them grabbed me and took me out without letting me put my shoes on and without blindfolding me, a thing that they always did. He pushed me hard. I had the chains - I couldn't follow him and I had to jump to be able to follow him. I thought they were going to kill me. But they put me in a car instead."[4] He was kept in chains in a windowless room during his captivity, living on a diet of potatoes and Afghan bread dipped in a watery soup.

According to the BBC and consolidated international press reports on a National Union of Journalists Photographers’ blog, Torsello made a telephone call on 12 October 2006 to the director of the hospital in Lashkar Gah confirming that he had been kidnapped and did not know where he was being held.[5] He asked the director to explain to the kidnappers that he was a genuine photo reporter and not a spy. The phone call was eventually cut off, but he was able on a few occasions later to contact the Italian organisation Emergency who ran the hospital.

A press release from Reporters Without Borders quoted Mullah Dadullah, a Taleban military chieftain, who threatened on 4 September 2006 to kill journalists who published news put out by the NATO forces in Afghanistan, as saying "We have an Islamic right to kill such reporters."[6] However, a later report quotes a Taleban spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, telling the Afghan news agency Pajhwok that the kidnappers should "free their hostage because it is not fair to hit at Italy by killing an innocent journalist." He added that "the kidnappers are just bandits interested in money." Reporters Without Borders suggest that their original demands might have been just a way of introducing a ransom request.[7] It is possible that the Taleban issue statements such as this to make kidnappings appear to be political rather than an exercise in revenue generation. To confuse the position, the captors are reported to have contacted Emergency and asked, in exchange for freeing Torsello, for the return to Afghanistan of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan citizen who converted to Christianity and who escaped to Italy after he was sentenced to death in March 2006. Furthermore, the Italian press agency AGI on 20 October 2006, quoted Torsello as saying, under duress, "The kidnappers frequently tell me that I am a spy and that British troops bombed Musa Qala and Nawzad districts on my intelligence", but that the abductors, contrary to their previous remarks, distanced themselves from the Taleban and said they were just Muslims fighting foreign occupation in the war-battered country.[8]

Contact with Torsello was sporadic, but on 3 November, his kidnappers made a final telephone call to Emergency (who had been acting as intermediaries during the negotiations), advising that Torsello had been released near Kandahar. Staff from the aid agency found Torsello on the road a short time later.[9][10] A substantial ransom is reported to have been paid to release Torsello, and the governments of Afghanistan and Italy have been criticised for the way they dealt with the Taleban in securing his release and that of other such hostages.[11]

The head of Emergency, Gino Strada, is quoted as saying that the Italian government entrusted US$2 million to Rahmatullah Hanefi, the Afghan director of their hospital in Helmand, to secure the release of Torsello.[citation needed] In a separate hostage negotiation in April 7 for the release of Daniele Mastrogiacomo, the Italian la Repubblica foreign correspondent, and his interpreter and driver, Hanefi was arrested and put in jail in Kabul by Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, alleging that Hanefi had played a part in the capture of Mastrogiacomo by the Taleban.[12] Italy’s deputy foreign affairs minister, Ugo Intini, confirmed that the Afghan government released five Taleban prisoners to win the freedom of Mastrogiacomo.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A story in black and white". Asia Times. 2004-01-24. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  2. ^ "The Heart of Kashmir". New Internationalist. 2003-08-01. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "Italian released in Afghanistan". BBC News. 3 November 2006. 
  5. ^ ‘Reporter abducted in Afghanistan’, bbc.co.uk, 15 Oct 06
  6. ^ ‘Gabriele Torsello makes contact to report he is well but reasons for kidnapping still unclear’, Reporters Without Borders/Reporters Sans Frontiers, 17 Oct 06 [2]
  7. ^ ‘Kidnappers say Italian photographer still in good health’, Reporters Without Borders/Reporters Sans Frontiers, 25 Oct 06 [3]
  8. ^ The Kash GT noticeboard, National Union of Journalists Photographers
  9. ^ ‘Italian released in Afghanistan’, bbc.co.uk, 3 Nov 06
  10. ^ ‘Photojournalist and EPUK member "Kash" Torsello released by kidnappers’, Editorial Photographers UK & Ireland [4]
  11. ^ ‘Tracking the Taleban's kidnap tactics’, bbc.co.uk, 31 Jul 07
  12. ^ Peter Popham, ‘Italy condemned over Afghan beheading’, The Independent, 10 Apr 07 [5]
  13. ^ ‘5 Taliban prisoners swapped for journalist’, Associated Press report 21 Mar 07 at msnbc.msn.com [6]