Translator's execution prompts debate in Italy

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ROME -- The weekend execution of a translator who had been working for an Afghanistan-based Italian reporter dominated the front pages of Italian newspapers Monday, increasing calls for Italy to pull out of the NATO-led mission in that country and sparking questions about the need for journalists to be sent into dangerous situations in the search for news.

Newspapers reported that journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi was killed Sunday by the Taliban. Naqshbandi had been working for Daniele Mastrogiacomo, a journalist for Rome-based La Repubblica, who was released from captivity last month after being held for two weeks. Mastrogiacomo's driver was beheaded during that time and Naqshbandi, who was working as a translator for Mastrogiacomo, was held.

Italian leaders, including Prime Minister Romano Prodi, blasted the execution. "We strongly condemn this absurd crime," Prodi said.

The execution started a new round of debate regarding Italy's role in Afghanistan. In February, Prodi's government collapsed after a failed no-confidence vote on the country's contribution of 1,900 troops for Afghanistan, and the topic flared up again after Mastrogiacomo was taken hostage last month.

This time, several newspaper editorials said the latest development showed that Italy should pull out of Afghanistan. And Italian television call-in shows received multiple calls from viewers who believed the media had no reason to put reporters and their support staffs in harms way to bring news from a war like the one in Afghanistan.

La Repubblica, Mastrogiacomo's employer, said it has no intention to stop covering conflicts that involve Italian troops.
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