- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

12:16 p.m.

ROME (AP) — An Italian journalist kidnapped in Afghanistan two weeks ago has been released, and in a video posted today on his newspaper’s Web site, he said he drew strength from the knowledge that Italy “had not abandoned me.”

Daniele Mastrogiacomo, a reporter for the Italian daily La Repubblica, was hospitalized in Lashkargah, Afghanistan, where the aid group Emergency is based, Prime Minister Romano Prodi said.

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

Mr. Prodi said securing Mr. Mastrogiacomo’s release “was not simple” but did not provide details.

Mr. Mastrogiacomo and two Afghans traveling with him were kidnapped March 5 in southern Helmand province’s Nad Ali district. Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility.

His release was announced today, but the fate of the two Afghans was not known immediately.

“I’m very happy, thank you all of you. I felt you had not abandoned me, and that gave me strength,” the journalist said in an online video on Repubblica’s Internet site just minutes after his release was announced.

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

Mr. Mastrogiacomo, 52, has worked since 2002 as a staff correspondent in Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East and Iraq.

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