Italian Newspaper Reports Contacts with Kidnapped Reporter

By: (AP) The newspaper that employs an Italian journalist held hostage in Iraq said today that it has indications she is alive and that intelligence officials have established indirect contact with the kidnappers.

Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for communist daily Il Manifesto, was abducted Friday by a group of gunmen outside Baghdad University. Conflicting claims have appeared on Islamic militant Web sites: One said she had been killed, while another said she would soon be released.

Il Manifesto said an unspecified contact person had been able to see Sgrena twice, Monday and Tuesday, and reported that she was well. The paper said the person could be used as a mediator in future communications with Sgrena's kidnappers.

The contact is the result of work by Italy's government and intelligence services, the Rome-based paper said.

Italian officials have been investigating whether Sgrena was taken by insurgents seeking political gains or by ordinary criminals hoping for a ransom.

A message posted Monday on an Islamist Web site said Sgrena would be released in the coming days. On Tuesday, a statement by a different group branded the journalist a spy and claimed she had been executed.

The Italian Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the most recent claim but pointed out that the ministry has generally had doubts about all such Web statements.


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