8/26/2005

Italy: A sponsoring State of terrorism

On Thursday a top secret military mission was revealed by the outgoing commissioner of the Italian Red Cross, that it gave medical treatment to "four terrorists" to secure the release of two Italian aid workers kidnapped in Iraq. The head of the parliamentary committee which oversees Italy's security services has announced that it will investigate the events which led to the release of Simona Torretta and Simona Pari, interviewing all involved.
The news broke out when Red Cross commissioner Maurizio Scelli told the Italian newspaper La Stampa, in an interview published on Thursday, that US officials were not told about the deal and the decision to keep it from them was approved by cabinet office undersecretary Gianni Letta, a close aide of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The prime minister's office responded to the claim, issuing a statement stressing that the Red Cross operates independently of the government and firmly distancing itself from Scelli, saying: "The government and its apparatus have never conditioned or directed the actions of the commissioner."

Scelli himself also began to play down the government's involvement, telling Italy's La Repubblica newspaper on Friday: "We carried out this operation in total autonomy and neutrality. " But he reiterated: "I informed Letta and told him the solution we were offered. Letta told me to go ahead with great caution. The fact that we kept the Americans in the dark was my request, and to this day, I honestly don't know if the government then informed them or not."

He also expressed his bitterness at being abandoned by the government. "Obviously the heroes are always those who die. Those who stay alive, however, insult you without even a word of thanks. I put my life at risk in those days as well," he told La Repubblica.

Relations between the two allies in the 'war on terror' soured at the beginning of March, when Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari was shot dead by US troops who opened fire on the car he was traveling in with newly-released hostage Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist kidnapped a month earlier. Sgrena was also injured in the incident.

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