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The controversial liberation of Italian citizen in Syria

By Giovanne Giacalone

Syria seems to have become the land of miracles, the only place in the world where terrorists can suddenly become life saviors, or at least that's how it is being depicted.

Charles Lister, of the Washington DC based "Middle East Institute", tweeted the following news on Wednesday afternoon:

"In a press conference, the #HTS-linked Salvation Government in #Idlib, #Syria has announced it has rescued/freed a hostage from #Italy, Allesandro Sandrini, from a criminal gang".

Quite amazing. The al-Qaeda*-linked terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham* (HTS) rescued the Italian citizen from a gang of criminals who held him captive for three years without managing to obtain a cent. Additionally, during the press conference, the HTS spokesperson claimed that 34-year-old Sandrini was being held by a gang "specialized in kidnappings and robberies", which raises the question on how they did not manage to earn anything from Sandrini's captivity in all that time.

According to information released by the Italian newspaper Repubblica it seems that in order to secure Sandrini, the police negotiated his liberation through some intermediaries and they then proceeded to contact the Italian government to plan the liberation.

The fact has been confirmed by Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, as reported by Ansa news agency:

"The compatriot Alessandro Sandrini was freed at the end of an articulated activity conducted, in foreign territory, in a coordinated and synergistic manner by the Italian intelligence, the judicial police and the MFA crisis unit".

The first logical question that arises is: "Was a ransom paid for his release? And if yes, who paid for it?"

If no ransom was paid, then why would a group of professional and "specialized" criminals decide to release the Italian citizen without receiving anything in exchange?

The timeline of Sandrini's story, as reconstructed by the Italian media, is particularly interesting as on October 3rd 2016 he boarded a plane from Bergamo to Istanbul and then on to Adana where he disappeared a few days later.

One year later, in October 2017, he called home for the first time saying that he had been kidnapped. The phone call was followed by three more where Sandrini said that the criminals wanted money and that the Italian government wasn't doing anything for his liberation.

On July 19th 2018 Sandrini appeared in a video, wearing an orange jail-suit, kneeling in front of two armed and masked individuals, but without any type of banner behind. In such occasion he again asked for assistance.

Then total silence, until today's press conference organized by the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham* in Bab al-Hawa, where the terrorists claimed credit for his release.

What an amazing timing, as the United States have just accused (so far without any evidence) the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against the so-called "rebels" in Idlib. An interesting coincidence as the Idlib area is the last anti-Assad stronghold left and it is interesting to notice how this stronghold is in the hands of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham*.

It is legitimate to think that the terrorist group HTS* has full interest in legitimizing itself on an international level as it is now a matter of survival and it would not be a surprise if some foreign powers would be willing to work with the terrorist group on such initiative with the objective of confronting the Syrian government and its Russian ally.

As to Alessandro Sandrini, once back in Italy he will be interrogated by the Attorney's office and in addition he will also have to face judicial actions because, as reported by Ansa news agency, he is wanted by the Italian authorities for robbery and sale of stolen goods.

*terrorist groups, banned in Russia