Italian television has broadcast harrowing images showing the decapitation of the Afghan driver of journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo. Blindfolded and kneeling in the dust with a gun pointed at his head, Mastrogiacomo is seen pleading for mercy with their Taliban captors. The three men clearly believe these are their last moments.
But only one was to die here: Sayed Agha, who is dragged to one side by a man wielding a knife. After witnessing the summary execution, the correspondent for La Repubblica pleads desperately to be rescued, saying he can no longer go on. Italian Premier Romano Prodi was hit by accusations of double standards and encouraging hostage-taking, after he pressured the government in Kabul to free five Taleban in return for the Italian captive.
The release also leaves Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a difficult position regarding the fate of two French hostages and their support team taken by the Taleban last week. Meanwhile, a ceremony has been held following news of the death of the second Afghan seen in the hostage footage. The Taleban announced on Sunday that they had killed translator Adjmal Naqshbandi, who remained as a bargaining chip after Mastrogiacomo was freed.