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Italian Leaders Condemn Kidnapping of Aid Workers in Iraq - 2004-09-08

Italy is again under shock over the kidnapping of two of its aid workers in Iraq, this time young women who were in Baghdad to assist with reconstruction efforts. The government has said everything possible will be done to obtain their release.

Both Simona Torretta and Simona Pari kept telling us they were tranquil and felt secure among the Iraqis and in their work in Iraq.

Lello Rienzi, spokesman of the humanitarian organization, a Bridge to Baghdad, was shocked when he received confirmation of the kidnapping of the two Italian women working for his organization.

They were abducted Tuesday by a group of armed men from their office in the center of Baghdad. All over Italy, people share the anguish of the families of the two brave aid workers, both under 30, who went to Iraq to provide assistance to the civilian population.

Political leaders condemned the kidnapping.

"This is no longer Iraqi resistance," said Gianfranco Casini, speaker of parliament's lower house. "These people first targeted soldiers but now helpless civilians, two women whose only wrong was to sacrifice their daily lives to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people."

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi held an emergency meeting of the cabinet Tuesday night and appealed for a united national response. Representatives of the opposition appeared ready for talks Wednesday with the government.

"We need a revolt of everyone against terrorism, violence and threats," said opposition leader Francesco Rutelli. "Everyone," he added, "must mobilize, without distinctions. We are prepared to collaborate with the government, with the institutions to save these two brave and honest women."

Two Italian hostages, a journalist and security official, have already been killed in Iraq. There have been growing calls for Italy to withdraw troops from the war-torn country. The latest kidnapping is likely to increase pressure on the government to at least pullout all Italian aid workers.