• Italy edition
Italian faced 'mock executions' in Syria
Domenico Quirico went missing shortly after entering Syria in April. Photo: La Stampa/AFP

Italian faced 'mock executions' in Syria

Published: 09 Sep 2013 14:33 GMT+02:00
Updated: 09 Sep 2013 14:33 GMT+02:00

Piccinin said on Monday they faced "real violence" and mock executions after being captured by rebel forces in April.

Quirico, 62, is a well-known war correspondent in Italy who worked from African hot spots including Libya, Sudan, Darfur and Mali. He entered Syria from Lebanon without an official visa and went missing in early April between Damascus and the flashpoint central city of Homs.

Scant detail has emerged of their release on Sunday but Quirico's newspaper said Italy's secret services had stepped up efforts to secure their release ahead of feared US military strikes.

"Physically, we are okay despite the torture we suffered," Piccinin told Bel RTL radio station shortly after returning to Belgium.

"There was sometimes real violence ...humiliation, bullying, mock executions ... Domenico faced two mock executions, with a revolver," he said.

Piccinin, a history teacher in a southern Belgian town, and Quericio, a correspondent for Italy's La Stampa daily, entered Syria via Lebanon in April.

Shortly afterwards, the Western-backed Free Syrian Army picked them up and handed them over to the Abu Ammar brigade, a rebel group "more bandit than Islamist," Piccinin told Le Soir daily.

The five months they were held proved to be "a terrifying odyssey across Syria," he told Bel RTL.

"We were moved around a lot...it was not always the same group that held us, there were very violent groups, very anti-West and some anti-Christian."

Piccinin said they tried to escape twice, once while their captors were at prayer, but they were tracked down after two days and "seriously punished."

Piccinin, an Arabic speaker who has travelled to Syria seven times since the conflict broke out in 2011, said the rebel cause had changed, descending into banditry.

"I think it has become very dangerous for Westerners to go to Syria in current conditions, with the revolution (against President Bashar al-Assad) disintegrating," he said.

After the two men were freed Sunday, they were flown to Rome on an Italian government plane.

Quirico, who was on his fourth trip to Syria when he was kidnapped, spoke to prosecutors in Rome on Monday about his ordeal after meeting with Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

Quirico looked gaunt and tired in images shown on Italian television.

"I have lived for five months as if I was on Mars. I was badly treated and scared," he told journalists.

La Stampa said the kidnappers were part of the "galaxy of rebel groups - a jumble of slogans, movements and war profiteers that is hard to work out."

The concern had been that as the possibility of US-led air strikes on Syria increases, "the frontline could move rapidly and contact could be lost with kidnappers," it said.

During his captivity, Quirico was able to briefly call his wife on June 6th, apparently from the former rebel bastion of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, southwest of Homs.

The foreign ministry later called on the media not to published unconfirmed information about the kidnapping and to let caution prevail when reporting about the case.

Italy is also trying to free another one of its nationals missing in Syria since July, Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit priest who has lived in Syria for many years to promote inter-religious dialogue.

Following Quirico's release there are 13 journalists still missing in Syria, according to media rights watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF).

Among the kidnapped are two French journalists, Didier Francois and Edouard Elias, who were picked up in June on the road to Aleppo. According to the head of their support committee, Serge July, they are being held by a group that claims to be part of the resistance.

US journalist James Foley, 39, who worked for Global Post, Agence France-Presse and other international media, was kidnapped in northwest Syria and has been missing since November 22nd 2012.

Foley's family have said they believe he is being held by Syrian security services in a detention centre near Damascus. In an interview in May, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he had "no information" on this.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Tipping in Italy
Why Italians don't tip (but Brits are worse)
Are the Italians stingy tippers? Photo of a bill: Shutterstock

Why Italians don't tip (but Brits are worse)

Tipping etiquette is full of pitfalls for tourists - and can sometimes be hard for locals to master too. But what is really expected in Italy? We asked Italian waiters to give us the lowdown. READ  

Ciao! Fiat dumps Italy as HQ heads to London
A banner of Fiat - Chrysler in front of Fiat Headquarters at Lingotto in Turin. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Ciao! Fiat dumps Italy as HQ heads to London

Fiat is officially abandoning its home of Turin after more than a 100 years and heading to London after shareholders approved a merger with the US-based Chrysler, a move which marks the end of the carmaker as an Italian company. READ  

Truck falls into sinkhole in central Rome
The accident happened by Rome’s busy Termini Station. Photo: Twitter

Truck falls into sinkhole in central Rome

A truck driver is recovering from shock after his vehicle toppled into a sinkhole in the heart of Rome on Friday morning. Scroll down the article for photos. READ  

Climber killed in Monte Rosa Massif
The men were climbing the slope that leads to the Vincent Pyramid, an area popular with climbing enthusiasts. Photo: Kubajzz/Wikicommons

Climber killed in Monte Rosa Massif

A climber was killed and a mountain guide is being treated in hospital for hypothermia after they were swept into a crevasse by an avalanche in the Monte Rosa Massif that lies between Italy and Switzerland. READ  

Poste Italiane to invest €70 million in Alitalia
Poste Italiane will invest €70 million in Alitalia. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto

Poste Italiane to invest €70 million in Alitalia

Italy’s state-owned Poste Italiane will invest €70 million in the struggling Alitalia as part of a plan to enable a merger with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, the company said in a statement. READ  

Italy defiant: we'll stay in Libya despite violence
Members of the Libyan army guarding the western gate of Tripoli in May. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

Italy defiant: we'll stay in Libya despite violence

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has insisted European nations must stay in Libya if they are serious about tackling major global issues as other nations evacuated their citizens amid raging violence. READ  

Renzi admits Italy will not meet growth targets
Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi looks on during the presentation of a new car model by Italian automaker Fiat, on July 25, 2014 at the Palazzo Chigi in Rome. AFP Photo/Tiziana Fabi

Renzi admits Italy will not meet growth targets

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Thursday he expected the eurozone's third largest economy to miss its growth target this year -- a failure that will make it tough for the government to balance its budget. READ  

The Local List
Top ten: hottest Italian men
Roberto Bolle is an Italian ballet dancer. Roberto Bolle photo: Shutterstock

Top ten: hottest Italian men

After Italian men were ranked the most desireable in Europe in a survey last week, The Local takes a look at the hottest the country has to offer. READ  

Dutch defender joins Lazio in €8.5m deal
Netherlands defender Stefan de Vrij has left Feyenoord for Lazio. Photo: Marco Rossi/SS Lazio Press Office/AFP

Dutch defender joins Lazio in €8.5m deal

Netherlands defender Stefan de Vrij has left Feyenoord for Lazio, the Italian Serie A club has announced. READ  

US tourists outraged over €42 ice cream bill
An ice cream in Rome can cost less than €2 - depending on where you go. Gelato photo: Shutterstock

US tourists outraged over €42 ice cream bill

UPDATED: An American couple were outraged after being charged €42 for three ice creams and a bottle of water at a bar in central Rome, asking the police to intervene, but the manager told The Local it was "their fault" for not reading the menu. READ  

How to avoid getting ripped off in Rome
VIDEO: Inmates get 'Happy' in Italian prison
'I never imagined it could feel this good': Nibali
Italian prison blasted over inmate 'happy hour'
Top 10 cycling routes in Italy
Top 10 foreign films made in Italy
Ukraine tragedy hits Mogherini's EU hopes
'Life in Italy is not how I thought it would be'
Critics scramble to block Mogherini from EU job
'Italy's ginger gene spread from Sicily'
'Refugees can contribute positively to Italy'
Hospital to obese patient: Go to a vet instead
Italy backs controversial Russian gas pipeline
Ten things tweeters love about Italy
Italy: no place for pets?
Why doctors in Italy refuse to give abortions
Italy's centre-right leader open to gay unions
Top ten reasons Italians hate summer
Italy under fire over its huge debt
Americans taught how to 'rap' Italian gestures
How does Italy compare to its EU neighbours?
The Italian explorer training astronauts
Top ten: Italy's gay-friendly holiday hotspots
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

jobs available