There are growing fears for the safety of a UK-based photojournalist who is still missing after reportedly being kidnapped by five Taliban gunmen in southern Afghanistan last week.

Italian-born Gabriele Torsello, who is understood to be a Muslim convert, is reportedly being held captive after being suspected of being a ?spy?.

Fellow members of his union, the National Union of Journalists, are in the process of setting up a web page to ?show the world he is not a spy? but a ?very special photographer?, according to Pete Jenkins, vice-chair of the NUJ?s Photographer?s Sub Committee. Jenkins told us that the union will not stop in its efforts to achieve the photographer?s release.

Torsello ? known to his friends and clients as ?Kash? ? was first reported missing by an Afghan news agency on Saturday.

The Italian foreign office is understood to have warned the photographer ? via the Italian Embassy in Kabul – of the risks of travelling to the area between Kabul and Helmand, one of the country?s most dangerous regions.

In a weblog dated 8 September the photographer wrote: ?I will be travelling to Kabul, Kandahar and Helmand and hope I will be able to sell directly from there (and get some assignments).?

A call to the photographer?s mobile phone was reportedly answered by a man who said: ?We are the Taliban and we have abducted the foreigner on charges of spying.?

Torsello had been working in southern Afghanistan since August.

International Federation of Journalists president Christopher Warren said: ?This is yet another appalling incident that treats journalists? lives as bargaining chips in a cruel kidnap ransom scenario.?

Torsello is a member of the Editorial Photographers United Kingdom & Ireland group which alerted fellow UK photographers to the incident on Saturday via an online article which added: ?The work of Torsello? has been published and exhibited worldwide. His most famous project The Heart of Kashmir brought together photographs spanning seven years and was widely praised for its depiction of the divided nation.?

On 6 October two German journalists were reportedly killed in Afghanistan’s Beghlan province.

Torsello?s interpreter Gholam Mohammad is understood to have been released unharmed.