Italian kidnapped in Kenya returns home after 18 months in captivity

Italian kidnapped in Kenya returns home after 18 months in captivity
Silvia Romano landed in Rome on Sunday after nearly 18 months as a hostage. Photo: Fabio Frustaci/ANSA/AFP
A young Italian woman who was kidnapped in late 2018 from an orphanage in Kenya, is free and returned to Italy on Sunday.

Silvia Romano was 23 and working as a volunteer in the orphanage in Chakama village in southeast Kenya when she was seized by gunmen in November 2018.

She landed at Ciampino airport in Rome on Sunday afternoon after nearly 18 months in captivity, during which time she said she had converted to Islam and taken the name Aisha.

“Welcome back to Italy, Silvia!” tweeted Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who was there to greet her. 

“I'm fine, now I just want to spend a lot of time with my family,” Romano told reporters as she was reunited with her parents and sister.

Romano, who hails from Milan, said she was held in several different locations and that her captors were not violent towards her. 

During the attack on November 20th, 2018, the armed assailants shot and injured five people in the orphanage, including three children.

No details were released about Romano's release, or about the identity or motivation of her captors.

“The state abandons no one,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio tweeted.

Chakama is about 60 kilometres inland from the coastal town of Malindi, which is popular with Italian tourists and expatriates.

The kidnapping of foreigners is relatively rare in Kenya, but has had a damaging effect on the country's crucial tourist economy.

A spate of abductions on the coast in 2011 saw a British man shot dead and his wife kidnapped from a resort island, while weeks later a French woman was taken from her home on the Lamu archipelago.

Soon afterwards Al-Shabaab gunmen abducted two Spanish aid workers from the Dadaab refugee camp close to the Somali border in the only confirmed case of kidnapping inside Kenya by the jihadists.

In April 2019, two Cuban doctors were kidnapped in northeastern Kenya and whisked to Somalia before $1.5 million (€1.35 million) was demanded for their release.

Kenyan police sources said the kidnapping bore the hallmarks of Al-Shabaab, a militant outfit that has been waging an insurgency against Somalia's foreign-backed government for over a decade.


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