Just one day after the release of a horrific video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, the Guardian is reporting that jihadists from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) have kidnapped two Italian women along with a Dane and a Japanese national.
The Guardian reported that the four hostages were either reporters, photographers or aid workers and were abducted near Aleppo or Idlib. It did not cite sources or give the names of the hostages. However, two Italian aid workers, 21-year-old Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli, 20, went missing near Aleppo in July.
Speaking to La Repubblica on Thursday, Ramelli’s mother Antonella said the family was “doubly worried now. How could we be otherwise?”
“I’m sure we will have some good news in the next few days, but we cannot say anything more,” she added.
According to the Guardian, the man who murdered Foley is leading the group of militants holding the foreign captives.
“The English jihadist who beheaded the American journalist James Foley is believed to be the leader of a group of British fighters holding foreign hostages in Syria,” the paper writes.
The capture of Marzullo and Ramelli comes a year after Paolo Dall'Oglio, an Italian priest, is believed to have been abducted by Isis.
The priest lived in Syria for more than 30 years and had been thrown out of the country for his open opposition to the violent government crack-down on popular protest. Dall'Oglio however chose to return to Syria in July 2013, reportedly to negotiate the release of hostages, when he went missing in the rebel-held city of Raqqa.
There has been little information on the fate of the priest, with conflicting reports following his disappearance on whether he had been killed or was being held by the militant group.
Over the past year two Italians have been freed by hostage-takers in Syria. Swiss-Italian aid worker Federico Motka was released in May, more than a year after he was abducted from the Atmeh refugee camp on the border with Turkey.
In September last year Domenico Quirico, a journalist working for La Stampa newspaper, returned to Italy after being held hostage in Syria for five months.
He said that he and his fellow captive, Beglian Pierre Piccinin, were "treated like animals" and subjected to two mock executions.
"During those interminable moments, I felt ashamed...It is your own fear that enrages you," Quirico said in September.