Paying for a miracle against Islamist terror?
The release of women from captivity by Islamist fanatics is of course great news for the victims. But are we paying the terrorists for this? Very troublesome news from Italy must put us on our guard. Weak West is lost on this as on so many related matters
Last March two young Italian women, Greta Ramelli, 20, and Vanessa Marzullo, 21 made a trip to Syria, to establish the needs of the refugees across the Turkish border. In July they returned to that benighted country to set up their voluntary aid project. Some say it was incredibly brave, some say it was utter folly. It was probably both.
On 31st July they were kidnapped in the town of Alabsmo, just outside Aleppo, by one of the many extremist groups in the area and all trace of them was lost. Then in September Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese paper close to Hizbollah, said the two young women had been lured by a trick to the house of the Head of the Revolutionary Council of Alabsmo.
The report stated that they had been sold on several times from one group to another.
On New Year’s Eve, a video appeared on YouTube of the two voluntary workers begging the Italian Government to get them home, saying they were in grave danger and risked being killed. The women said that the Italian Government was responsible for their lives.
A few hours later the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, Al Nusra, confirmed it was holding the two as hostages.
Now Greta and Vanessa are miraculously free, arriving in Rome on a Government jet. The Italian foreign Office said it was ‘the result of an intense effort by the Italian team’.
Nevertheless it leaves at least the possibility of a nasty taste in the mouth. Nicola Monteni, a MP for the newly resurgent right wing Northern League, has demanded that the Government clarify rumours that a ransom of $12 million was paid. Most people seem fairly certain that it was
In some ways this has been fairly good timing, with the nation fixated on the runners and riders to replace President Napolitano, a vote being due at the end of the month. In other ways it is bad timing, given the appalling events in France and now Belgium.
Attitudes to ransom differ over the world. The USA never pays ransom and it is illegal for Americans to do so. The British Government never pays ransom, but seems to turn a blind eye when individuals or companies do. In Europe by contrast it is a free for all.
The implications are obvious: al Nusra are $12 million better off, which they can spend on armaments and explosives to commit new atrocities against the West. And other groups know that if they want a few dollars to finance their next campaign against us, all they have to do is capture one of the soft targets which we ourselves send out to them.
I am in no doubt about the purity of their motives, but there is something rather self-indulgent about two young women going to a war zone to fulfil their philanthropic dream and expecting the government and its taxpayers to rescue them when something goes wrong.
Why do mainland European Governments pay ransom? Are they blind to the obvious encouragement they are giving to their enemies?
In part it is just weak government. Twelve million dollars is not a lot in respect of a modern state and it gets them out of any embarrassing questions should hostages be slaughtered, as to what the Government was doing to protect its citizens.
But it is not just that. No European Government would dare introduce such a policy except through the European Commission. Until recently Europe has not really woken up to Islam being a threat, maintaining what we might generously call an even-handedness between it and Israel.
The outrage at Charlie Hebdo might have changed that. Brussels might consider spending less time harmonising our vacuum cleaners and more developing a common anti-terrorism policy.
Al-Qaeda is thought to have made $60 million in the last year alone from ransoms. That pays for quite a few outrages on newspapers and kosher stores.
Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelance writer, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here
We are wholly dependent on the kindness of our readers for our continued work. We thank you in advance for any support you can offer.