Armed men kidnap two Italian women in Baghdad

Wext: Tuesday, 07.September. @ 00:00:00 CEST


07. 09. 2004 BAGHDAD (AFP) - Armed men kidnapped two Italian women working for a charity at gunpoint from their Baghdad offices along with two Iraqis, witnesses said.

The two women, identified as Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, were working for the Italian charity Un Ponte Per Baghdad (Bridge to Baghdad) while the Iraqis worked for a non-governmental organisation called Intersource.

Witnesses said the kidnappers drove up in three cars to the offices of the two organisations at 5 pm (1300 GMT) and seized the four hostages.

In Rome, officials said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had immediately been informed of the abduction and was returning to Rome from northern Italy to convene an emergency cabinet meeting.

Italy was a key supporter of last year's US-led invasion of Iraq and still maintains 3,000 troops and police in the south. Its involvement with the US forces has already seen Italian nationals targeted in the spate of kidnappings that has hit Iraq since April.

Journalist Enzo Baldoni was abducted by a militant group calling itself the Islamic Army of Iraq and executed on August 26 after the government in Rome rejected an ultimatum to withdraw its troops.

Berlusconi's hawkish line has come in for mounting criticism at home.

Critics have unfavourably compared his government's efforts to secure Baldoni's release with France's intense lobbying for the freedom of two of its journalists held hostage by the same militant group.

Ironically the aid organization for which Pari and Torretta worked is a longstanding opponent of Western policy towards Iraq.

The group campaigned vigorously against the crippling UN sanctions enforced against Iraq from its 1990 invasion of Kuwait right up to last year.

Under Saddam Hussein's regime, it ran health care, education and water treatment projects here in a bid to alleviate their impact on the Iraqi people.

The organization's operations are not limited to Iraq -- it has also worked in Kosovo and the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, and campaigned against the impact of globalisation.

Dozens of foreigners have been held captive by insurgents seeking to force their governments or employers to leave the country. Some have been released but others brutally killed, their executions often posted on Internet sites.

There have also been some criminal kidnappings for ransom, in which hostages have normally been freed after payment.

Source: AFP

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