Hopes for Italian priest's release in Syria

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Paolo Dall'Oglio went missing in Syria in July 2013. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP
15:10 CEST+02:00
An Italian priest captured by Islamic fighters in Syria last year is alive, with negotiations currently underway for his release, according to Italian media.

Efforts to free Paolo Dall'Oglio “have been ongoing at various levels in Syria and outside the country”, anonymous sources told ANSA news agency.

People close to the negotiations said the most recent confirmation that the Jesuit priest was alive came two weeks ago, ANSA reported on Monday.

When contacted by The Local, the Italian Foreign Ministry was unable to confirm the news.

Dall’Oglio went missing in July in the eastern city of Raqqa, with reports divided over whether he went freely to negotiate the release of hostages or had been abducted. He is now believed to be in the custody of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group linked to al-Qaeda.

The Italian priest had lived in Syria for more than 30 years when popular protest in the country descended into civil war. He was expelled from Syria by President Bashar al-Assad in 2012, although was smuggled back across the border shortly before disappearing.

SEE ALSO: Italian priest fighting for peace in Syria

In September an Italian journalist was freed after five months being held hostage in Syria. Domenico Quirico, a seasoned correspondent for La Stampa, said he twice tried to escape and faced mock executions while in captivity.

READ MORE: Italian faced 'mock executions' in Syria

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More than 150,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war, according to estimates, while the UN has so far registered more than 2.7 million refugees.

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