In Italy, the government is facing calls to admit whether or not it paid a ransom to secure the safe return of a photojournalist kidnapped in Afghanistan three weeks ago. Gabriele Torsello was seized by armed men from a public bus in the Helmand province, the most dangerous part of the country.
Speaking briefly on his release in Kabul, he said he was allowed to call an Italian aid agency hospital several times during his captivity and that he was held mostly in darkness and shackled. Afghan police say the 36-year old was captured by the Taliban, but the group denies any involvement, blaming criminals instead.
A convert to Muslim, Torsello had reportedly won the trust of the Taliban who allowed him to photograph their strongholds in the country’s troubled south. His kidnappers had threatened to kill him unless Italy’s 1,800 troops left Afghanistan and Rome handed over an Afghan Christian convert for trial in an Islamic court.