Somali terrorists will use Italian ransom money to fund more terrorist attacks
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Islamic terrorists who freed an Italian hostage after more than a year’s imprisonment in Somalia, say they will use the ransom money “to buy weapons for jihad”. The Italian government is reported to have paid between €1.5 and €4million euros to al-Shabaab, an East African Islamist fundamentalist group, for the release of 24-year-old aid worker Silvia Romano from Milan.
Unlike other Western countries such as the UK, which has a policy of not paying for hostages, Italy is widely suspected of paying kidnappers, although it officially denies it.
The controversy around the liberation, sparked by allegations of funding terrorism, has been amplified by Romano’s conversion to Islam during captivity.
While many observers sympathise with her decision in such difficult circumstances, photographs of her wearing a traditional Somali Muslim hair covering, demonstrating her conversion, have been used in online propaganda by jihadi groups. A regional politician in the right-wing Brothers of Italy, Massimo Giorgetti, wrote on Facebook: “Am I happy about the release of Silvia Romano. Not all all. Now we will have one more Muslim and €4 million less.”
Ms Romano has received violent online threats and hate speech, with her family home in Milan put under police guard.
Even her local priest in the neighbourhood of Milan Casoretto Don Enrico was criticised after he rang the church bells, “for transforming the bell tower into a minaret”.
Romano was seized in November 2018 in the coastal town of Chakama Kenya, while working with a tiny Italian NGO, Africa Milele.
Investigators believe she was then taken on foot and by motorbike to Somalia. She told investigators that she “had always been treated well. They told me that I would not be killed and that’s what happened”.
Ali Dehere a spokesman for al-Shabaab, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica “We did everything to make her not suffer because she was a hostage not a prisoner of war”.
She was a “precious commodity”, he said. The ransom money would be used “in part to buy weapons which we always need to carry on with jihad.. and to manage our territory, including paying police to maintain order and force people to respect the laws of the Koran.”
Ms Romano told investigators her conversion was “a free choice.” During a four hour debriefing she reportedly told prosecutors and terrorism police that she cried for a month then asked for something to read and was given an English translation of the Koran.
Her kidnappers taught her a little Arabic and explained their religion and culture, she said. “It was a slow process, I started reading for curiosity then it became normal.”
Opposition politicians have criticised the Government for handing the terrorists an easy win. Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party said. “The Islamic terrorists gained both money from a criminal act and they won the cultural battle in the name of Islam and conversion”.
Giorgia Meloni leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party said “It is a modus operandi of Islamic terrorists to kidnap young women and make them convert to create the image that Islam has won”.
“The state should be rigid with kidnappers so that people don’t think that it is profitable to kidnap Italians”.