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Last Updated: Monday, 19 March 2007, 21:54 GMT
Taleban free Italian journalist
La Repubblica journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo
Daniele Mastrogiacomo, 52, is married with two children
An Italian journalist kidnapped by the Taleban in Afghanistan two weeks ago has been released.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Daniele Mastrogiacomo was in good health in hospital in Afghanistan.

Mr Mastrogiacomo, who works for the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, was trying to interview senior Taleban officials at the time.

He was seized in southern Helmand province along with two Afghans who were working for him.

It later emerged that one of them, a driver, had been beheaded by the Taleban. The other, an interpreter, was freed at the same time as Mr Mastrogiacomo.

Strength

The Taleban had said they would free the journalist if Italian troops left Afghanistan.

"I'm very happy, I thank you all. I knew you wouldn't abandon me, and that gave me strength and courage," Mr Mastrogiacomo said on Monday via La Repubblica's online television station.

The Italian prime minister said the release had not been "simple" and that more details would be released later.

Fears for Mr Mastrogiacomo's safety grew last week after reports that the his driver, a father of four, had been killed.

Shortly afterwards, a tape was released in which the journalist said he had just two days to live.

Contacts to negotiate his freedom intensified, culminating in his handover to Italian representatives on Monday.

One Taleban leader, military commander Mullah Dadullah, told Reuters by satellite phone from an undisclosed location that Mr Mastrogiacomo had been freed after Afghan authorities released five senior Taliban officials, including his own brother.

There has been no official confirmation.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Daniele Mastrogiacomo on his hostage ordeal



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