Italian Journalist Taken Hostage In Afghanistan Appears In Video And Appeals To Prodi

Wednesday, March 14th 2007, 8:03 pm
By: News On 6

ROME (AP) _ An Italian journalist kidnapped in Afghanistan last week appeared in a video shown on television Wednesday appealing to Premier Romano Prodi to work for his release.

The Rome newspaper La Repubblica said Italian authorities were given the video in which the daily's reporter, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, appears alone, with his shoulders and the back of his head covered with a plaid shawl or scarf.

The Italian aid group Emergency, which works in Afghanistan, said it was given the videocassette Wednesday. It did not say by whom.

On the tape, Mastrogiacomo gives the date, ``It's Monday, March 12,'' then goes on to say: ``As you see, I'm in good condition physically, more or less, and ... as you can see, under guard.''

No guards or weapons could be seen in the video.

``They arrested me because I was in Taliban territory,'' the journalist said, speaking in a calm, clear voice. He added that two Afghan colleagues also were being held, an apparent reference to two assistants who were traveling with Mastrogiacomo when he was abducted March 5.

``I appeal to the government, and to the sensibility of Premier Romano Prodi so that he does what is possible ... to obtain our release,'' Mastrogiacomo said.

The journalist at one point turns to listen someone telling him something, and then mentions his wife and children, telling them: ``I think they will release me soon. Just be patient.''

Prodi's office said in a statement that the government was ``united and determined to work for the freedom of the journalist as rapidly as possible.'' Prodi met with the Italian foreign and defense ministers about the video, it said.

Prodi said Sunday that Italy was following Mastrogiacomo's case but that the country's military mission in Afghanistan remained unchanged.

Italy has been resisting NATO urging to reinforce its 1,800 soldiers in Afghanistan, saying it is already committed to other peacekeeping operations, including a leading role in Lebanon.