Many Italians angered by alleged ransom payout


Vanessa and Greta with Italian government official

Many Italians are furious about the alleged gigantic ransom – the rumor is 12 million euros – that the Italian government is said to have paid to jihadists in Syria to free two, young would-be women aid workers. Government officials have denied paying anything since the official line here is that ransoms must not be paid to terrorists, but no one believes it. Reportedly, this is the seventh or eighth time that Italians kidnapped in Iraq or Syria have been ransomed.

The women, Greta Ramelli e Vanessa Marzullo,  both university students, arrived in Aleppo on July 22 with money raised to help the stricken populace and were kidnapped on July 31. They were flown back to Italy earlier this week and yesterday arrived in their hometowns in northern Italy amid the grumblings of many ordinary Italians and some politicians and pundits as well.

Clearly, no one would wish them dead or decapitated as has been the case with Americans or British victims, since both the U.S. and the U.K. follow a hard-line policy of not making such payouts, no matter the consequences. But many people here are bitter about money being spent in this fashion when more than six million working-age Italians are without jobs. And many others, including myself, are horrified that European governments in this way are financing dangerous and bloodthirsty terrorists.

Yesterday, the conservative Rome daily, Il Tempo, had a front-page story dedicated to the number and types of weapons that the jihadists will now be able to buy with the ransom money. The government should do something to keep people – however well-intentioned  – from traveling to certain parts of the world or, as an alternative, to make sure they – and their families – know that they are doing so at their own risk.

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