Two female Italian aid workers kidnapped in Iraq three weeks ago were set free on Tuesday. Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, both 29 years old, flew to Rome where they were greeted by a tumultuous welcome at a military airport on Tuesday night.
Two Iraqis and four Egyptians who were abducted at the same time as the Italian women were also released by their kidnappers. It is widely believed that two French journalists who are being held will also be released, but there is no such speculation over the fate of British national Ken Bigley.
While the French and Italian governments engaged in strenuous negotiations with the captors, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been steadfast in vowing not to give in to terrorists’ demands. An analyst for The Media Line also points out that the public display of strong criticism of Blair over the plight of Bigley is an added plus for the terrorists.
It is widely believed that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi authorized a ransom payment of $1 million, but his government will not address questions on the subject. The two Italian women and two Iraqi men released on Tuesday all worked on children’s projects for A Bridge to Baghdad, an international aid organization.