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Italian Aid Workers Arrive Home from Iraq - 2004-09-28

Two Italian female aid workers held hostage in Iraq for the last three weeks have returned to Italy. Family members were at Rome's Ciampino military airport to welcome them home. Italians rejoiced when they heard news of their release.

The families of Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, the two Italian aid workers kidnapped in Iraq, expressed their joy at the news of their release. There had been no news of the women since their abduction September 7.

It's a marvelous thing, like a new birth, said Simona Torretta's mother as crowds of well-wishers gathered underneath her Rome home when they heard the news of the release. "After the darkness," she said, "the light, a birth, a new joy."

Anna Maria Torretta was ecstatic at the news that her daughter was freed. She said she would not prevent her from returning to Baghdad if she wanted to. The two Italian aid workers were released in Baghad Tuesday and handed over to the Italian Red Cross.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the kidnapping was a terrible affair that kept all the fathers and mothers of Italy in anguish and fortunately ended positively.

The Italian government carried out an intense diplomatic campaign in its efforts to obtain the release of the two women. Mr. Berlusconi said as many as 16 different mediation attempts were carried out. He did not elaborate any further.

Mr. Berlusconi told parliament the secret services had located the whereabouts of the hostages, but rather than risk using violence to secure their release, the Italian government had preferred to negotiate.

A Kuwaiti newspaper said Tuesday the women's captors had agreed to free them for a $1 million ransom. The Italian government has not commented that news report.

The two Italian hostages, both 29 years old, had been working for the aid agency "A Bridge to Baghdad." They were abducted from the organization's offices in central Baghdad by a group of armed men along with two Iraqi colleagues, who were also freed on Tuesday.