Were Italian Aid Workers Ransomed? Italy Denies Speculations

The return of two Italian aid workers held captive in Syria has been more controversial than celebratory by igniting speculation that Italy paid a ransom to the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist captors. Paolo Gentiloni, the foreign minister of Italy, described the release of the two volunteers as result of Italy’s “teamwork” and not due to caving to ransom demands of the terrorists.

Many Italians are expressing anger towards the women, 21-year-old Greta Ramelli, and 20-year-old Vanessa Marzullo, for being captured and generating the ransom demands in the first place. The two women, along with another Italian founded an NGO to provide aid to some of the Syrian people who have been displaced or injured during the brutal Syrian civil war in which close to 200,000 people have lost their lives.

Marzullo and Ramelli were kidnapped from the city of Aleppo nearly six months ago. Their kidnappers were suspected to be Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliated faction. A video of the women was released on New Year’s Eve to YouTube, where they beseeched Italy for their release, claiming they were in grave danger and might lose their lives.

Marzullo and Ramelli in YouTube video pleading for Italy's help

The paying of ransoms for kidnapped victims is intensely controversial. The terrorists have made it clear that they have no qualms about killing their hostages when they don’t receive the ransoms they demand. However, paying the ransoms funds further terrorist activities that leads to deaths of other innocent people.

Estimates place income from paid ransoms around $125 million. U.K.’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has previously urged countries to hold to the G7 agreement to not pay ransoms to terrorists, as those ransom dollars were funding further terrorist activities and creating more problems. The U.K. and the U.S. have held to that agreement, refusing to pay ransoms, as reported by the Inquisitr.

Italy’s strong Catholic beliefs may contribute to the county’s history of doing whatever necessary to save the lives of its citizens, including paying ransoms. Gentiloni has called the actions of the two volunteer workers “brave” and “courageous” and is delighted to have them home in Italy, but has been issuing weakly worded denials to the rumors that Italy paid their ransom.

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A Middle Eastern media outlet reported that Italy paid a ransom of nearly $13 million to buy the women’s release from their terrorist captors. Riccardo Pelliccetti, an editor of daily Il Giornale has mixed feelings about the allegations, feelings that seem to mirror much of the rest of the country.

“I’m happy that the girls are free and alive. But the fact remains that when you bow to blackmail, you’ve lost the game. You have to consider not just how many lives you save, but how many are you killing.”

Italian politicians believe that Italians should be dissuaded from travelling to dangerous, war torn areas, regardless of humanitarian needs, to avoid situations such as these. Until more details are available, speculation will continue to surround the return of the two women. Was their ransom paid by Italy, or was their release negotiated through other means? Regardless, the women’s families are thankful for their safe return.

[Image credit: Time]