April 12th, 2010
06:40 AM ET

Italian workers held in Afghan assassination plot

Afghan authorities have arrested three Italian medical workers in a plot to assassinate the governor of the southern Helmand province.

The three workers were arrested Saturday along with six Afghans from a hospital run by Milan-based Emergency in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province.

Emergency is one of the few foreign-run clinics in the city.

The nine were planning to conduct suicide attacks in the province, said Daud Ahmad, the provincial governor's spokesman.

Authorities said the suspects had taken $500,000 from the Pakistan Taliban to launch their attack in a crowded location when Gov. Gulab Mangal was present.

Authorities found two suicide vests, two pistols and explosives hidden in medicine cartons at the clinic, Ahmad said.

Emergency has maintained a presence in Afghanistan for more than a decade, with its Lashkar Gah clinic treating more than 66,000 people, the group said.

In 2007, a hospital staffer mediated between the Afghan government and the Taliban to secure the release of kidnapped Italian journalist Danielle Mastrogiacomo.

Mastrogiacomo was freed but an Afghan translator, Ajmal Naqshbandi, was killed by militants.

Afghan authorities now say the three arrested Italians killed Naqshbandi.

The Italian government could not immediately be reached for comment.

The charity said it has not been able to reach the three employees by phone.

"This accusation sounds simply groundless to us, and we are absolutely certain that the truth will come forth quickly," the nongovernment organization said in a statement on its Web site.

Afghan authorities have not contacted it to explain the reasons for the detention, the group said.

"These are individuals who for years have been working to ensure medical treatment for the Afghan people," the statement said. "We ask that their rights be respected, the first of which is to allow them to communicate with us and let us know their personal conditions."

- Journalist Matiullah Mati contributed to this report.

Filed under: Daily Developments
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Paolo

    Now that the Afghan authorities freed the italians working for EMERGENCY WITHOUT CHARGES WHATSOEVER, you could demonstrate to be impartial by running this news on your site instad of staying silent about the development of this story!

    April 18, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Major T

    If i had 500,000 dollars I could figure out a way to spend it.

    April 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. AclParis

    One of the workers is a close friend so I can ensure you that this is all nonsense. Matteo Pagani, 29, has decided to dedicate his life to humanitarian causes after we graduated from university. Do you really think this guy could accept to participate in a suicide attack for 500 000 dollars (which by the way he would not have the opportunity to spend!)?

    April 15, 2010 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. gateway

    The whole thing doesn't make sense. I think there is something else going on.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Paolo

    So that people know, the three italian workers of Emergency were not even in Afghanistan when the translator of Mastrogiacomo was killed in 2007. One of them not even worked for Emergency at the time. This just an example of how ridiculously biased all these accusations are! The Afghan authorities should release them immediately.

    April 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Afghan Vet

    Wow. This seems to be part of Karzai's new policy: blame everything bad that happens in the country on the very people who are there trying to help. It began last week with him admitting that there was gross voter fraud in the election, but then having the gall to blame it on the UN election observers. Now they are blaming the killing of the Italian journalists' translator on some Italian aid workers? Unbelievable.

    April 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. A Skri

    Athough 'NGO Emergency Italiano' may not want to declare it at this time, in that their personnel are still under custody, but afterwards, it should bring to light the underlying friction with the local governor ... namely Emergency's refusal to pay the 'unofficial taxes'. An accusation that would be difficult to make while some of its personnel are still in custody.

    April 13, 2010 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. LacrosseSon

    Sounds fishy.
    But then, if Emergency wasn't aiding the enemy, they'd surely have been attacked by the enemy by now...

    April 12, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Smith360

    It is entirely likely the Italian Mafia wanted to remove the governor of the southern Helmand province to better conduct the smuggling of Opium-Heroin back to Italy under the watchful eyes of the Italian Mafia members.

    April 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |