Two Italians held in Syria released: Syria state TV

BEIRUT/ROME Sat Jul 28, 2012 10:33am EDT

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BEIRUT/ROME (Reuters) - The Syrian government said on Saturday its forces had freed two Italian workers kidnapped by "terrorists" but one of the men said he had no idea who had seized them.

The Italians, employees of a subcontractor for energy technology group Ansaldo Energia, were abducted on July 17 as they drove to the airport to fly out of the country, according to Italian media.

"Our forces have managed to release two Italians who were kidnapped by terrorists in the Damascus countryside," state television said, showing footage of the men being interviewed on what appeared to be a sofa in a hotel.

One of the men told Italy's AGI news agency that it was not clear who had detained them.

"Who kidnapped us? We also want to know that. It's difficult to say because the situation is very confused," AGI said Oriano Cantani had told it by telephone.

Cantani said they had been shifted to several different locations over the past few days.

The men appeared healthy but tired in the footage aired on Syrian television. In the interview with the state broadcaster the men said they had been kidnapped by a group of young people who carried grenades and Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Cantani told AGI that they were both well but the experience in captivity had been "pretty tough".

An Ansaldo spokesman contacted by Reuters declined to comment.

Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi welcomed the news of their release.

"We continue to follow developments through all available channels, to arrive at a swift conclusion," he said without offering any other details.

A report in Italian daily Secolo XIX had said last Saturday that the men were travelling in a convoy of 20 staff who worked for Ansaldo when they were captured.

The two men had become separated from the group when it was stopped and ended up in the hands of a rebel group, the newspaper said, citing a colleague of the men who managed to leave Damascus. The others made it home safely.

(Reporting By Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Catherine Hornby in Rome and Danilo Masoni in Milan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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