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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2007, 01:07 GMT
Captive speaks of Taleban horror
La Repubblica journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo
Daniele Mastrogiacomo, 52, thought he would be killed

An Italian journalist freed after being kidnapped by the Taleban in Afghanistan says he saw his captors cut off the head of one of two Afghans with him.

Daniele Mastrogiacomo, who works for the La Repubblica daily, was seized two weeks ago in southern Helmand province.

Mr Mastrogiacomo was said to be in good health in hospital. His driver's body has yet to be handed over, while his translator has still not been freed.

The men were kept in chains and moved 15 times while in captivity, he said.

'Horrific'

Mr Mastrogiacomo was abducted while trying to interview senior Taleban officials.

I saw him be decapitated... Then they wiped the knife on his clothes
Daniele Mastrogiacomo

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

He said his Afghan driver had been decapitated in front of him by their Taleban guards.

"I saw him being decapitated, it was horrific," he told Italian TG3 television.

"I was shaking. Obviously I thought 'it's my turn now."

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said the release had not been "simple" and that more details would be released later.

Italian officials say the journalist will arrive in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Tuesday and then fly home to Italy.

Fears

Fears for Mr Mastrogiacomo's safety grew last week when reports first emerged that his Afghan 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 of this.


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