• Italy's news in English
 

Italian faced 'mock executions' in Syria

Published: 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.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How to keep cool like an ancient Roman
A centurion crosses the road. Photo: Filippo Monteforte

How to keep cool like an ancient Roman

As the mercury rises in Italy and the days and nights get unbearable, we look to the ancient world for tips on staying cool. READ  

Two more arrested in Italy anti-terror sweep
Twelve people have been arrested in Italy as part of an anti-terror sweep. Photo: Shutterstock

Two more arrested in Italy anti-terror sweep

UPDATED: Two North Africans have been arrested in Rome on suspicion of being part of an al-Qaeda-inspired cell that was planning attacks in Italy and North Africa. READ  

Gervinho denies chopper demand to Al-Jazira
Roma striker Gervinho has hit out at claims he requested a helicopter and a private beach as part a UAE transfer deal. Photo. Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Gervinho denies chopper demand to Al-Jazira

Roma striker Gervinho has hit out at claims he requested a helicopter and a private beach as part of the deal that would take him from the Serie A club to Al-Jazira in the United Arab Emirates. READ  

Girl, 16, 'raped' by man posing as police officer
The 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped in the Prati area of Rome. Photo: Jeffrey Nunes

Girl, 16, 'raped' by man posing as police officer

A man has been arrested in Rome on suspicion of raping a 16-year-old girl in the Prati district of the Italian capital on Monday night. READ  

Expo staff mistake deaf pensioner for anarchist
The T-shirt the pensioner was wearing bore the same colours as the one worn by Blac Bloc protesters. Photo: Yasuyoshi CH / AFP

Expo staff mistake deaf pensioner for anarchist

From Mafia links, to terrible English and even fake cheese: Expo 2015 has so far had its fair share of scandals. But on Monday, it may just have stooped to a new low... READ  

Italy joins allies in call for speedy Libya deal
Libya plunged into chaos after the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi's regime in 2011. Photo: Mohamed El-Sheikhi

Italy joins allies in call for speedy Libya deal

The United States and five European allies on Tuesday called for rival Libyan groups to endorse a deal at UN-led negotiations to resolve the country's ongoing crisis. READ  

Nemo's garden off Italy offers hope for basil
Italy's Ocean's Reef CEO Sergio Gamberini, head of Nemo's Garden project. Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP

Nemo's garden off Italy offers hope for basil

In the homeland of pesto, a group of diving enthusiasts have come up with a way of growing basil beneath the sea that could revolutionize crop production in arid coastal areas around the world. READ  

Armenian genocide images on show in Italy
An employee of film restoration laboratory Cineteca di Bologna, works on the restoration of a film about the Armenian genocide. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Armenian genocide images on show in Italy

Rare, moving images of survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide will be shown in Bologna on Thursday as part of the 29th edition of the city's "Cinema Ritrovato" (Rediscovered Cinema) festival. READ  

Berlusconi bunged €10m for Bunga Bunga silence
Silvio Berlusconi and Karima El Mahroug, better known as Ruby. Photos: (L) Filippo Monteforte/AFP (R) Giuseppe Aresu/AFP

Berlusconi bunged €10m for Bunga Bunga silence

Silvio Berlusconi paid an exotic dancer and other young women some €10 million for their silence over what went on at his Bunga Bunga sex parties, a prosecutor said on Tuesday. READ  

Italian town declares war on 'aggressive' geese
Photo: Tambako The Jaguar

Italian town declares war on 'aggressive' geese

They’ve been described as the best guard animals that exist, but the more quirky characteristics of geese are causing angst among residents in a town in the northern Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Chaos deepens at Rome's blaze-hit airport
National
Italy raises terror alert after attacks
National
Sardinia's poor give all to refugees
National
A beginner's guide to aperitivo in Italy
Fake Italian restaurant tops TripAdvisor ranking
National
Canton of Ticino threatens closing Italy border to asylum seekers
National
Italian grandfather, 91, completes middle school
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Is this Italy's most violent sport?
National
Italy smashes record for tallest Lego tower
Travel
Dark tourism: Italy's creepiest attractions
National
Italo-American cuisine mocked on Facebook
National
Italy's immigrants send billions back home
National
Why Italians aren’t having more babies
National
The pros and cons of being an au pair in Italy
French people told to stop scoffing Nutella in order to save planet
National
Italy: we'll hurt Europe over migrant crisis
Top that! Italy snatches pizza title from Spain
Travel
Most liveable cities: five neglected Italian gems
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Politics
Berlusconi and Putin: an enduring love
National
Italy has fourth highest petrol costs in world
Features
Six bizarre health tips Italian grans swear by
Turning away migrants 'heartless': Sicily mayor
National
Italy okays proton therapy in cancer case
Nuns stuck in lift for three nights 'drank urine'
Five insane ways EU money was blown in Italy
Yes, it's still a crime to insult Italy's president
National
Nine in ten Italians don't like Roma: survey
National
VIDEO: €619 fine for nuns' Italy beach photo trip
Politics
VIDEO: Mattarella meets Britain's Queen
National
VIDEO: Rome police help ducks cross busy road
National
Tide turning in Italy over gay marriage
National
Italian court tells veggie mum: feed your son meat
National
7 ways Italian culture will change your life
National
Italian town sets new Tiramisù record
National
US finds Pompeii frescoes robbed in 1950s
Travel
10 things to do in Milan when you visit Expo
National
Producer warns of global Prosecco shortage
IN PICTURES: Berlusconi joins Instagram
National
Italy starts to show the strains of migrant influx
Migrant gets permit for saving drowning woman
Features
Rude Italian terms that just don’t translate
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

3,498
jobs available