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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 October 2006, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
Reporter abducted in Afghanistan
Gabriele Torsello (image from his website)
Torsello is a Muslim convert
An Italian photojournalist has been abducted in south Afghanistan while travelling on a bus between the restive provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

Gabriele Torsello phoned a local hospital to say he had been kidnapped on Thursday and did not know where he was, an Italian newspaper reports.

An Afghan news agency says it called his mobile phone and was answered by a man claiming to be from the Taleban.

The freelance photojournalist, a Muslim convert, is based in London.

His phone numbers were not answering as of Saturday evening.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), Maj Dominic Whyte, said on Saturday that the journalist had "been out of contact for the last two to three days".

Helmand and Kandahar have seen fierce fighting between Taleban militants and Nato-led foreign troops.

'Spying'

PeaceReporter, an Italian online newspaper, said Mr Torsello had telephoned a hospital in Lashgar Gah, Helmand's provincial capital, to say he had been kidnapped but did not know by whom or where he was.

The Pajhwok news agency quoted Mr Torsello's travelling companion Gholam Mohammad as saying that he had been seized by five gunmen.

Calling his mobile phone, the agency was reportedly answered by a man who said:

"We are the Taleban and we have abducted the foreigner on charges of spying."

A Taleban representative who spoke to Reuters news agency distanced himself from the kidnapping, blaming it on criminals.

Gabriele Torsello says in his online CV that he is a "photojournalist specialising in war zones and hostile environments, mainly in Jammu and Kashmir and Islamic Countries/Areas".

There has been no official confirmation of the abduction from the authorities in Rome or Kabul.

Two German journalists were shot dead by unknown attackers in northern Afghanistan earlier this month.

Karen Fischer and Christian Struwe, two freelances working for Deutsche Welle, are believed to have been the first foreign reporters to be killed in the country since 2001.


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