Rome, 22 May : Italian hostage Alessandro Sandrini has been freed from captivity “after a complex operation in foreign territory”, Premier Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday after a jihadist group in northwest Syria announced Sandrini had been freed.
“Compatriot Alessandro Sandrini has been released after a complex operation in foreign territory,” Conte said in a statement.
The operation “was carried out in a coordinated manner involving synergies by Italy’s intelligence services, judicial police and the Foreign Ministry’s crisis unit,” the statement said.
Earlier, hardline militant rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which largely controls the embattled northwest Syrian province of Idlib, said kidnappers had “recently” freed Sandrini, without saying where.
Sandrini had been held by a gang that demanded ransom payments, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s administrative arm, the so-called ‘Salvation government’ said in a statement carried by the Sham news agency.
For his personal safety, the ‘Salvation government’ had undertaken “indirect” negotiations with Sandrini’s captors and has been in touch with Italian authorities to arrange his handover, the statement quoted the anti-government group’s ‘Deputy Interior Minister’ Ali Kaddah as saying.
Sandrini, 32, who is from the northern Italian city of Folzano, vanished in October 2016 after boarding a flight to the southern Turkish city of Adana, allegedly for a week’s holiday. He called his mother a year later to ask for help, saying he had been abducted and did not know where he was or who was holding him.
In a video published by US terrorism tracking organisation SITE last July, Sandrini, clad in an orange jump-suit and flanked by rifle-toting masked gunmen, asked the Italian government to help secure his release, saying: “They will kill me”.