Italian aid worker freed from Syria

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An estimated 160,000 people have been killed in Syria's three-year conflict. A woman walks past a burning car in Aleppo following air strikes on May 1st. Photo: Khaled Khatid/Aleppo Media Centre/AFP
10:09 CEST+02:00
A Swiss-Italian aid worker landed in Rome on Tuesday morning after being held hostage in Syria for more than a year, the Italian foreign ministry said.

Federico Motka arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport this morning where he was greeted by Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, the government said in a statement.

The Italian’s arrival was anticipated by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who in a tweet on Monday said: “I have just told Giovanna Motka that her son Federico, kidnapped more than a year ago, is returning and will be in Italy tomorrow.”

Motka was abducted from the Atmeh refugee camp, on the Syrian-Turkish border, on March 12th 2013.

The Italian ministry did not give detail of the group responsible for his kidnapping or how he came to be freed, stating only that Motka’s freedom came thanks to the work of the government’s crisis unit and security services. Kidnappings are often kept under wraps while negotiations are underway, if a hostage’s safety is deemed to be put at risk by news reports.

At least one Italian is still missing in Syria, where according to estimates more than 160,000 people have been killed in the three-year conflict.

Paolo Dall'Oglio, a priest who lived in Syria for more than 30 years, went missing in the country in July 2013.

Since his disappearance from the city of Raqqa there have been mixed reports of his whereabouts, with some reports saying that he has died. As recently as this week a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an Islamic extremist group operating in Syria, was quoted as saying that the priest was killed last summer.

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In September an Italian journalist returned home five months after being taken captive by rebels close to the Syrian border with Lebanon. Domenico Quirico, a veteran reporter for La Stampa newspaper, said that he and a fellow hostage were "treated like animals" by their captors.

READ MORE: 'Even children and old people tried to hurt us'

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