World News

Four Italian journalists kidnapped in Syria freed - Italy

ROME (Reuters) - Four Italian journalists kidnapped and held in Syria since April 4 had been freed on Saturday, Italy’s interim Foreign Minister Mario Monti said in a statement.

Monti’s statement gave no details about who had taken the reporters hostage nor any regarding their release, but state news agency ANSA said they were now in Turkey and would return to Italy on Saturday evening.

Monti thanked those involved in securing the reporters’ release “which was particularly complicated because of the dangerous context”, the statement said. About 70,000 people have been killed in Syria’s two-year-old civil war.

Monti said he had personally followed the situation since the reporters were taken hostage in northern Syria, and he thanked the media for respecting a blackout requested by RAI state television, who employs one of the four journalists.

They had been in Syria to film a documentary about a rebel faction close to al Qaeda, Italian media said.

Though the Foreign Ministry never released the names of the journalists, they have been widely reported by Italian media to be RAI journalist Amedeo Ricucci, freelancers Elio Colavolpe and Andrea Vignali, and Italian-Syrian reporter Susan Dabbous.

Ricucci told ANSA by telephone that the group had been held by an armed Islamist group, that none of them were wounded and all were in good health.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Louise Ireland