Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

Italian hate campaign targets Silvia Romano after she was released by kidnappers

The kidnap victim converted to Islam during her captivity and arrived home in modest wear

Italian kidnap victim Silvia Romano has been subjected to a wave of abusive criticism by the country's far-right after her return home from captivity was broadcast on national television.

The Italian aid worker was kidnapped by gunmen 18 months ago while working for charity Africa Milele in southeastern Kenya.

After months of negotiations, the 25-year-old's release was negotiated by Italian intelligence services working with their Turkish counterparts and, on Sunday, she arrived in Rome.

Images showing her clothing and appearance as she left the airport triggered criticism by right-wingers who claimed Ms Romano had Stockholm syndrome, where a hostages comes to an affiliation with their captor.

The campaign has been fanned by the Italian press, which has accused Turkish intelligence of directing an Italian ransom payment to terrorists.

Director of right-wing newspaper Libero, Vittorio Feltri, tweeted that by allegedly paying for her release, the Italian government was funding her "friends" and financing terrorists.

Turkish security sources said Ms Romano was rescued after a joint effort by Turkey's MIT intelligence agency and Italian and Somalian government authorities.

"The MIT began work in the region on determining Silvia Romano's condition in December 2019 upon a request from Italian authorities," the sources said.

They added that Ms Romano was delivered to Italian authorities in Somalia on Saturday after the joint efforts.

"Paying the ransom for Silvia means financing Islamic terrorists. Who are friends of the girl who became Muslim. Nice operation," Feltri tweeted.

He further tweeted that he was "annoyed" that the state spent money on bringing Islam to Italy.

His comments were mirrored by director of newspaper Il Giornale, Alessandro Sallusti.

"Silvia is back, well but it was like seeing a concentration camp prisoner proudly dressed as a Nazi. I don't understand, I will never understand," he tweeted.

Ms Romano had told news site Open that her conversion to Islam had been "spontaneous" and without coercion.

"I converted to Islam. But it was my free choice, there was no compulsion on the part of the kidnappers who always treated me with humanity," she said.

"It happened in mid-captivity, when I asked to be able to read the Koran and I was satisfied.

"It is not true, however, that I was forced to marry, I had no physical constraints or violence. "

Ms Romano was found in Somalia, some 30km outside the capital, Mogadishu, and was released thanks to efforts by the external intelligence agency, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.

She was greeted at Rome's Ciampino airport by Mr Di Maio and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday.

"I was strong and resisted," Ms Romano said after her release.

"We are so glad to welcome Silvia back in such a delicate moment for the country. The state is always there, and will always be there," Mr Conte said.

He thanked the intelligence services, the judiciary and the defence and foreign ministries, all involved in the release of the aid worker.

Updated: May 12, 2020 11:33 AM

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