Source AP ©

Two kidnapped Italian military freed in Afghanistan

Two kidnapped Italian military personnel were rescued in a NATO-led raid early Monday in western Afghanistan, two days after they went missing, an official said. Early reports indicated that at least five of the kidnappers had been killed.

Both Italians were wounded during the operation, one seriously. The two were being treated in a hospital run by NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

"They were freed in an ISAF operation. They were both injured. One is in a more difficult situation than the other," an Italian embassy official said on condition of anonymity because of embassy policy. "They are free now. They are at a military hospital in the western region."

An Afghan translator and driver who were with the Italians were "found," the official said, adding that he did not know what condition they were in.

NATO troops located the two Italians and attacked the group of kidnappers. Preliminary reports found that five of the kidnappers were killed, though the toll may be higher, the official said.

The two Italians, their driver and translator had been missing since Saturday when they were last seen at a police checkpoint in the Shindand district of Helmand province, Afghan police said.

The Italians' last contact with their base was Saturday night, the embassy official said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press on Monday that the Taliban had not kidnapped the Italians. The embassy official said it wasn't clear which insurgent group had kidnapped the Italians.