The Scotsman, April 10, 2007
Italy 'paid Taliban £1 million to free photographer taken hostage in Afghanistan'
Sayed Ansari, a spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence service, accused Mr Hanefi of helping the Taleban kidnap the three
ITALY'S government paid a ransom of £1 million to the Taliban to free an Italian photographer taken hostage in Afghanistan, an aid group has claimed.
Ajmal Naqshbandi, Mr. Mastrogiacomo's interpreter was beheaded by Taliban.
Gino Strada, the founder of Emergency, a non-governmental organisation, said Romano Prodi's government paid £1 million to secure the release of Gabriele Torsello, a freelance photographer who was abducted on 12 October last year and freed on 3 November.
Emergency has been involved in negotiating the release of a number of Italian hostages in Afghanistan.
The Taliban said on Sunday that it had beheaded an Afghan journalist and interpreter working with another Italian journalist who was freed after a much-criticised prisoner swap with the Taliban last month.
The interpreter, Ajmal Naqshbandi, was kidnapped along with Daniele Mastrogiacomo of the Rome daily La Repubblica and a driver on 5 March. The driver was beheaded and Mastrogiacomo was released on 19 March after five Taliban militants were released.
Strada said that Hanefi ... in November took a $2 million ransom paid by Italy and went to collect the freed hostage after handing over the money.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi did not deny the claim of the ransom. He also defended the negotiations that led to the release of Mastrogiacomo...
The Voice of America, April 10, 2007
Mr Strada is pressing for the release of Rahmatullah Hanefi, who worked in Emergency's hospital in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan's Helmand province. He was believed to have been taken into Afghan custody after Mastrogiacomo's release. The hospital played a key role in negotiating the photographer's freedom.
On Sunday, Sayed Ansari, a spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence service, accused Mr Hanefi of helping the Taliban kidnap the three.
Mr Strada said that Mr Prodi's government knew Mr Hanefi was trustworthy because he had been entrusted with £1 million to deliver to the Taliban in exchange for Torsello's freedom.
Several members of Italy's parliament are now pressing the Prodi government to brief them on the claims.
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