03/20/2007, 00.00
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As Talibans celebrate, others ponder high price of Mastrogiacomo’s freedom

Islamist websites are posting boastful congratulatory notes for the release of five Taliban prisoners as well as pledges to continue the fight. Politically, the Talibans have scored big and can now claim that they recognised as would-be parties to any peace conference. Bitterness instead fills the hearts of ordinary Afghans and the relatives of the decapitated driver.

Kabul (AsiaNews) – Islamists are celebrating the release of five of their top leaders in exchange of Daniele Mastrogiacomo as a great victory. But in Kabul many residents are angry that little attention was paid to the two Afghans who were abducted with the Italian journalist—one, the driver, was decapitated; the other, the interpreter, is still missing. In the international community misgivings about the affair’s denouement are becoming more or more explicit.

The release of the Italian journalist has opened the floodgates on Islamist websites—countless numbers of people are complimenting the Talibans for getting the “prisoners in exchange of the Italian unbeliever.”

Mr Mastrogiacomo, who was abducted on March 5 by the men of Taliban commander Dadullah with his driver, Sayeh Agha, and interpreter, Ajma Naqshbandi, was freed yesterday.

“Add your note of congratulations for the Talibans,” says one of the many pages on Islamic online forums posting messages by al-Qaeda’s supporters for the positive outcome of the negotiations over the reporter’s release.

“Great news,” writes one Sanafi al-Nasr. “We want freedom for all of our brothers.”

Other messages urge the Talibans to continue their struggle against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

For local experts, Mastrogiacomo’s release came at a “high price”. The journalist’s driver, 24, was decapitated; his interpreter’s whereabouts remain are unknown. What is known is that he is in the custody of Afghan police waiting to be interrogated about the incident. He will also have to explain why he did not inform the authorities that he was being employed by the Italian.

Moreover, it is now clear that the Talibans believe that any political solution must involve them, which was one of the goals they had in kidnapping the Italian journalist. Even though UN spokesman in Afghanistan Adrian Edwards said that the “UN does not deal with terrorists,” it will hard to avoid them now that Italian government officials invited them to a possible peace conference.

In the local population reaction to the end of the hostage taking incident was swift. In front of the offices of Italian humanitarian organisation Emergency in Lashkargah, some 200 people demonstrated today against the government of President Hamid Karzai, guilty in their eyes of “releasing five criminals in order to free a foreign infidel rather than an ordinary Afghan,” cried out the uncle of Sayeh Agha, the decapitated 24-year-old driver.

The body of the father of four children has already been handed over to the family.

A few days ago, upon hearing that her husband was dead, Mr Agha’s pregnant wife suffered a miscarriage.

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See also
Afghans demand clarity in Mastrogiacomo affair
High risk for abducted Italian journalist if in Taliban hands
Any discrimination between Afghan and Italian hostages is Dadullah's doing, says Italian ambassador
Daniele Mastrogiacomo freed, satisfaction in Kabul
Mastrogiacomo abduction case closely monitored, says Afghan MP