Italian aid worker abducted in Kenya returns home on special flight

Silvia Romano, an Italian aid worker kidnapped 18 months ago in East Africa, landed in Rome on Sunday a day after being freed.

Gunmen seized Romano, who was working for an Italian charity called Africa Milele, in northern Kenya in November 2018.

She was found in Somalia, some 30 kilometres outside the capital of Mogadishu, and was released thanks to efforts by the external intelligence agency, Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.

Romano touched down at Rome’s Ciampino airport aboard a special flight around 2 p.m. local time.

Escorted by masked men from the intelligence service, she temporarily removed her protective mask to wave as descended the steps from the jet before hugging relatives waiting for her at the airport.

She was greeted by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Di Maio.

Silvia Romano is seen in August 2018 in the village of Chakama, Kenya. She was a 23-year-old volunteer with the Italian charity Africa Milele when she was abducted in the coastal trading centre in November of that year. (The Associated Press)

In her home neighbourhood in Milan, church bells saluted her arrival, with many people on their balconies.

Romano was expected to meet prosecutors in Rome later on Sunday.

“I was strong, and resisted,” Romano was quoted by Italian newspapers as saying after her release.

Prime Minister Conte said that the task force working to free Romano had been in the final stages “for the last months,” after having proof that she was still alive. He added that details were not revealed so as to not compromise the operation.

People applaud as they stand outside the house of Silvia Costanza Romano in Milan, Italy on Sunday. (Luca Bruno/The Associated Press)

“We are so glad to welcome Silvia back in such a delicate moment for the country. The State is always there, and will always be there,” Conte said.

He thanked efforts from the intelligence services, the judiciary and the defence and foreign ministries, all involved in the release the young woman.

Italian newspapers reported that Italy’s intelligence services had worked with their Somali and Turkish counterparts to free Romano.

“I am literally bursting with joy at this moment. But it is hard even only to think, please let me breathe. I need to withstand the shock, happiness is so big that it is exploding,” Silvia’s father Enzo was quoted as saying by several Italian newspapers on Sunday.

 

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