Romano converted to Islam while in captivity – Reports

The rescue took place in on Friday night, 30 kilometres from Mogadishu. Reports say captors later sold her to the al Shabaab. After one and a half years in captivity, Italian volunteer Silvia Romano, 25, is free.

Romano was kidnapped by gunmen at Chakama village in Kilifi county on November 20, 2018, while she prepared to sleep at her guesthouse. On Saturday, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted news of Romano’s release from captivity. “Silvia Romano has been freed! I thank the women and men of the external intelligence services. Silvia, we are waiting for you in Italy!” Conte wrote on Twitter.

The headline-hitting news immediately lit up social media. The rescue took place on Friday night, 30 kilometres from Mogadishu. “And this is where the volunteer is now, safely in the compound of international forces. She will return to Italy tomorrow with an Aise plane that will land in Ciampino at 2pm,” Italian newspaper la Repubblica wrote. It has emerged that Romano converted to Islam while in captivity.

Romano arrived in Rome-Ciampino airport yesterday afternoon aboard Dassault Falcon 900EX flight, operated by Italian Intelligence. Videos showed Romano disembarking while donning Islamic dress while accompanied by three hooded security officials. She pulled off her face mask, smiled and waved at a crowd of journalists at the airport. She met her family, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and other officials.

Intelligence reports indicate the kidnappers, local militia, later sold her to the al Shabaab terror group after combing through dense Boni forest for days. Despite the 18-month ordeal, reports say she ‘is well and in shape’. She was reportedly dressed in traditional Somali attire when she was rescued by the External Information and Security Agency (EISA), the foreign intelligence service of Italy before being taken to Italy Embassy in Mogadishu.

EISA was assisted by Camp Turksom, Turkey’s largest overseas military facility which trains Somali armed forces. The rescue comes after months of negotiations and video links between her lords, al Shabaab operatives and the Milan task force.

“The group’s emissaries indicate the Bay area in the village of Buulo Fulaay as the site of the prison. They say she was locked up in a cave with other hostages for a while. They fix the final price, after the money paid to pay the various contacts,” Corriere Della Sera, Italy’s most-read newspaper wrote.

The paper reported that after the rescue, Romano spoke to her parents and Conte who broke the news to the world. During the kidnapping in 2018, gunmen fired indiscriminately injuring other five people including three children, promoting ground and air search for the Milan native. The operation was initially so robust National Police Service released images of three suspects connected with the kidnapping with a bounty of sh1 million each, four days after the abduction.

But after months of a search in which three suspects were arrested, officials went mute citing operational reasons. In June last year, the Star reported that Italian intelligence troops under the Ros of the Carabinieri were dispatched to Nairobi to take over investigations into the kidnapping of the staffer at Italian humanitarian group Africa Milele. Observers fronted many theories with some saying it was an ivory smuggling deals gone sour with many pointing fingers at al Shabaab arm — the Jaysh al-Ayman insurgents based in Boni Forest. Focus now shifts to suspects thought to have collaborated with the kidnappers.

Three people have so far been charged with the kidnapping including Moses Luwali, Abdulla Gababa Wario and Ibrahim Adan Omar who was said to be a key suspect.Other foreigners kidnapped on Kenyan soil and remain in captivity are two Cuban doctors surgeon Landy Rodríguez and general medicine specialist Assel Herrera.

In April, it was exactly one year since the two were kidnapped by suspected al Shabaab militants in Mandera who would later demand a ransom of $1.5 million for their release. Although with rare abduction, al Shabaab has continued its bloody attacks in Kenya with Northern and Coastal parts bearing the brunt of the attacks.

Source: The Star, Kenya