Italian reporter kidnapped in Afghanistan finally freed

ROME (AP) – An Italian journalist kidnapped in Afghanistan two weeks ago and released Monday said he was moved 15 times during his captivity, forced to walk for miles in the desert, bound by chains and held in places “as small as sheepfolds.”

In an audio recording posted on his newspaper’s Web site, Daniele Mastrogiacomo described his ordeal and said he drew strength from the knowledge that Italy “had not abandoned me.”

“I knew that Italy was supporting me and that was the only comfort in the most desperate moments, when I feared I was going to be killed at anytime soon,” Mastrogiacomo said in the recording posted by La Repubblica minutes after his release was announced. “This is the most beautiful moment of my life.”

Mastrogiacomo, 52, and two Afghans traveling with him were kidnapped March 5 in southern Helmand province’s Nad Ali district. Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility. The fate of the two Afghans was not immediately known.

“I’m very happy, thank all of you. I felt you had not abandoned me, and that gave me strength,” Mastrogiacomo said.

Mastrogiacomo arrived Monday at a hospital in Lashkar Gah, in southern Afghanistan, where the Italian-led aid group Emergency is based, Premier Romano Prodi said.

“He is in good health and I expect that in a few days, we will be able to hug him,” Prodi said.

Prodi said securing Mastrogiacomo’s release “was not simple.” His office said the reporter would be flown back to Italy on a state plane and his family, “an extraordinary family for its unity and strength, will be able to hug him again along with all of us.”

Mastrogiacomo has worked since 2002 as a staff correspondent in Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East and Iraq.

Gino Strada, the founder of Emergency, told Sky TG24 News from Afghanistan that Mastrogiacomo was well. “He is relaxing a little, finally.

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