Italian PM says businessman held hostage in Syria for three years has been freed

Sergio Zanotti is seen in a screenshot from an online news video. SCREENSHOT: YOUTUBE

ROME (AFP) - Italian businessman Sergio Zanotti who was held hostage in Syria for three years has been freed and is expected back home soon, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Friday (April 5).

"At the end of complex, delicate operations of information, investigation and diplomacy that took place simultaneously, we succeeded today in obtaining the release of Sergio Zanotti, kidnapped in Syria in April 2016," Conte said in a statement.

"Our compatriot's general condition appears to be good and he will return to Italy, to Rome, in a few hours," the Italian premier added.

Italian media say Zanotti, 57, is a businessman who disappeared after leaving for Turkey, and that his ex-wife had received several messages in which he pleaded for help, or was threatened with execution.

In August 2018, Italian media also raised the case of another Italian hostage from the same region of Brescia, Alessandro Sandrini, 33, who disappeared in October 2016 after going on holiday in Turkey while he was on partial unemployment.

Sandrini's mother disregarded foreign ministry advice to remain silent about her son's disappearance after several brief phone calls with him and the reception of at least one video in which he appears kneeling, in an orange jumpsuit and threatened by armed men.

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