Italian photojournalist, abducted in Afghanistan, still missing

New York, October 16, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the reported abduction of freelance Italian photojournalist Gabriele Torsello on Thursday. The independent Afghan news agency Pajhwok said Torsello was seized by five gunmen on the highway from Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, to neighboring Kandahar province. Pajhwok said the information came from Torsello’s local fixer Gholam Mohammad, who called the agency shortly after the abduction.

Italian authorities in Rome and Kabul confirmed Torsello’s disappearance. No claim of responsibility was made publicly, and the identity of the kidnappers was not clear. Helmand and Kandahar provinces are the sites of battles between NATO forces and antigovernment groups, including the Taliban; drug smuggling and crime are also rampant.

Torsello’s abduction came just days after two German journalists, Karen Fischer, 30, and Christian Struwe, 39, were killed by unidentified assailants on October 7 in the tent they had pitched near a road in northern Afghanistan, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) northwest of Kabul. The government has not announced any progress in bringing their killers to justice.

“We call for the immediate release of Gabriele Torsello who was doing his job documenting the news,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “We’re very concerned that this case reflects a deteriorating security situation for journalists in Afghanistan.”