Two Italian aid workers, abducted in northern Syria last year, arrived in Rome early Friday after being freed on Thursday, according to media reports. Although the circumstances behind their release are not yet clear, the Italian foreign ministry reportedly said that the release was a result of “intense work by team Italy.”
The two women, Vanessa Marzullo, 21, and Greta Ramelli, 20, had reportedly been working in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo when they disappeared in late July or early August last year. In a video released two weeks ago by the captors, believed to be militants of the al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, the two women were shown wearing black robes and headscarves and holding placards urging the Italian government to secure their release.
“We are in big danger and we could be killed,” Ramelli had said in the video, speaking in English. “The government and its militaries are responsible for our lives.”
According to some reports, the two women were released after the abductors were paid $12 million in ransom. However, so far, the Italian government has not confirmed the reports.
The aid workers were among a number of Western nationals who have been abducted by militants affiliated to the Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State group. ISIS, which currently controls large swathes of territory in northern Syria, has beheaded at least five Western captives, including three Americans and two British nationals.