Three weeks after abduction, photographer released in Afghanistan

New York, November 3, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today’s release of Italian freelance photographer Gabriele Torsello three weeks after he was taken captive by gunmen in southern Afghanistan.

The Italian government confirmed to news agencies Torsello’s release, which was first reported by PeaceReporter, a Web site that works closely with aid agencies in areas of conflict. Torsello told the Web site that he was kept in dark rooms during his captivity and was chained for much of the time. He was unharmed, according to news reports.

Five gunmen seized Torsello on the highway that links Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, to neighboring Kandahar province. The kidnappers originally claimed to be members of the Taliban, but senior Taliban leaders denied involvement. In a phone call to the independent Pajhwok Afghan News agency in Kabul, the kidnappers described themselves as “Muslims fighting foreign occupation,” Pajhwok reported.

“We’re relieved by the positive outcome in Torsello’s abduction.” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “But the abduction of Torsello is one of a number of recent incidents that raise concerns about the safety of journalists as the security situation in Afghanistan worsens.”

Other cases include:

October 7. Karen Fischer, 30, and Christian Struwe, 39, two journalists working for German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, were killed in the tent they had pitched near a road in northern Afghanistan. The motive for the killings was not clear, according to the Interior Ministry, which said it was conducting an investigation.

• August 11. The low-power Radio Istiqlal was firebombed in the province of Loghar south of Kabul after a “night letter”—an anonymous warning posted on walls and distributed by hand—appeared in the town a few days before condemning “decadence and corruption” in general. No one was injured in the attack.

• July 29. Tolo TV reporter Noorullah Rahmani and cameraman Qais Ahmad were beaten by unidentified gunmen while filing a report on a demonstration against Member of Parliament Abdorrab Rasul Sayyaf in Paghman district of Kabul province.

• July 22. Aryana television cameraman Abdul Qodus died in a double suicide bombing in Kandahar. Qodus had arrived at the scene of a suicide car bomb when a second explosive-laden attacker blew himself up. Qodus died of head injuries.