Accessibility links

Italians Face New Kidnapping Nightmare


Italians are experiencing new feelings of fear and anguish following the kidnapping of a young aid worker in Afghanistan. Some have begun to feel Italian nationals are too exposed and their presence in crisis areas should be limited.

Italian aid worker Clementina Cantoni was to have returned to Italy at the end of the month. She had been working in Kabul for three years, for the aid organization Care International.

Her abduction has brought new anguish in Italy where many have become increasingly aware of just how difficult it is for aid workers and journalists to work in some areas of the world, namely Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many Italians still vividly remember the nightmare that ended with the freeing in Iraq of journalist Giuliana Sgrena, but the killing of an intelligence officer who helped negotiate her release. This time it is a young aid worker who has been helping out Afghan widows and their families.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini called the hostage's family in Milan. He said caution and especially discretion are needed and promised that no efforts will be spared.

A family friend spoke briefly to journalists outside the hostage's Milan home.

An Afghan widow holds a photograph of Clementina Cantoni to condemn her kidnapping during a protest in Kabul
The family has nothing to say at the moment, he said, asking journalists to kindly leave because at the moment, the family does not have the energy to deal with the press.

The prefect of Milan, Bruno Ferrate, one of the city's top officials, also visited the family.

He said this is a beautiful Italian family, which is tried by the events, just as anyone would be. The prefect said the government and institutions are close to this family and he too asked it be left alone.

The Secretary General of the World Muslim League, Abdullah bin Abdelmohsen al Turki, on a visit to Rome, condemned the kidnapping and appealed for the aid worker's release.

Italians in the streets are fearful of what could happen to Clementina Cantoni. Italy has had at least eight of its citizens kidnapped in Iraq, two of whom have been killed.

Rome has denied ever paying a ransom to obtain the release of its hostages, but analysts say the Italian government has negotiated in every possible way to free its nationals. They say that because of this Italians have been more at risk than others of being abducted.

XS
SM
MD
LG