She was abducted on November 20, 2018 in Chakama, a town 80 kilometers from Malindi, in Kenya. She narrated everything in a newspaper that she asked her jailers when she was transferred to Somalia. Silvia Romano, an Italian woman who was kidnapped by terrorists in Kenya 18 months ago, greets the Ciampino military airport in Rome, Italy on May 10.

Silvia Romano asked her jailers for a scorer. It was the first thing she did after arriving at her final destination, far from where she had been kidnapped by three Islamic terrorists and after several days of walking through the middle of nowhere. He imagined, at 23 years old, that his captivity would be long. Well imagined. The jihadists who abducted her on November 20, 2018 in Chakama , Kenya , and transferred her to Somalia would keep her under their power for 18 months. She was released in the last hours of last Friday, when after long negotiations and sporadic tests of life, international forces found her in a place 30 kilometers from Mogadishu .The operation was carried out in conjunction with the country’s secret services and Turkey , a country that has a large military base there.

In that diary, Silvia recorded with her nervous lines all her feelings and thoughts. Above all, how her kidnappers treated her. Upon his return to Milan , where he was reunited with his excited family, details of what he lived began to be known. She related it to the prosecutors who made contact with her when she stepped on her land. ” I was desperate, I was always crying. The first month was terrible, ”said the volunteer in a care program for abandoned children with the Italian NGO “ Africa Milele ”. “They told me that they would not harm me, that they would treat me well. I asked for a notebook, I knew it would help me.”

In this August 2018 file photo, Italian volunteer Silvia Romano poses with local resident Ronald Kazungu Ngala, 19, in the village of Chakama, Kenya
In this August 2018 file photo, Italian volunteer Silvia Romano poses with local resident Ronald Kazungu Ngala, 19, in the village of Chakama, Kenya (AP)

“I was always alone in a room. He slept on the floor, on some sheets. They didn’t beat me and I never suffered violence. They didn’t make me do anything. They gave me food and when they entered my room, the kidnappers always had their faces covered. They spoke in a language that I don’t know what it was, I think a dialect. Only one of them spoke a little English. I asked him for books and then I also asked to read the Koran, ” Silvia told prosecutors and reproduced by the Corriere della Sera newspaper . Many believe that it was at this time that he began his path to conversion to Islam.

In the Somali village where she was under the control of Al Shabab – an African affiliate of the terrorist group Al Qaeda – the young woman remembers that every day, on repeated occasions, she had called to pray according to Muslim traditions. “ I was always locked in rooms. I read and wrote. Several times a day I listened to the muezzin calling the faithful to pray, “he said. The muezzin is the one who summons the faithful of Islam from one of the towers of a mosque.

Silvia Romano during her volunteering in Kenya. There, after 18 months in captivity of Islamic terrorists, he converted to that religion and changed his name to Aisha
Silvia Romano during her volunteering in Kenya. There, after 18 months in captivity of Islamic terrorists, he converted to that religion and changed his name to Aisha

In her captivity, Silvia recorded three videos. They were the tests of life in which they forced him to say his name and that he was being treated correctly. That it was well. Several thousand kilometers away, her family remains in contact with the Italian authorities, who inform her that she was alive. In the 18 months that she was abducted, she was transferred six times by Somalia . Those trips were recorded in his diary. ” They were long and exhausting, ” he recalls from Milan . “They moved me every three or four months, but at that time I was no longer afraid .”

“I read the Koran, I prayed. I reflected for a long time and in the end I made that decision , ” Silvia explained to the prosecutors, to whom she hates:” My name is now Aisha . ” That name is symbolic in Islam. Aisha bint Abi Bakr was one of the wives of Muhammad , the prophet of that religion.

Kidnapping and release

Silvia had been kidnapped on November 20, 2018 in Chakama , a town 80 kilometers from Malindi , in Kenya . There she worked as a volunteer caring for abandoned children with the Italian NGO “Africa Milele”. The kidnapping terrorists stormed the NGO headquarters armed with rifles and machetes. At first, the researchers followed the hypothesis of a common kidnapping. But it later emerged that the kidnappers were working for Al-Shabaab , the Somali branch of Al Qaeda, and that the young woman had been transferred from Kenya and Somalia and handed over to the jihadist group.

Then there were months of silence and uncertainty about the whereabouts and conditions of the volunteer. A year ago, a rumor had spread that he had died of an infection. However, according to Italian Intelligence, those rumors were aimed at increasing the price of the ransom. Meanwhile, three of the kidnappers had been arrested and were being tried in Kenya.

Silvia Romano is hugged and kissed by her mother, Francesca Fumagalli, at the Ciampino military airport in Rome (Reuters)
Silvia Romano is hugged and kissed by her mother, Francesca Fumagalli, at the Ciampino military airport in Rome (Reuters)
Silvia Romano is received by her father Enzo Romano who prepares to hug her after being abducted for 18 months in Somalia (Reuters)
Silvia Romano is received by her father Enzo Romano who prepares to hug her after being abducted for 18 months in Somalia (Reuters)

Six months ago, in November a year after the kidnapping, a first proof of life delivered by jihadists fueled hopes. Negotiations with the kidnappers then began, carried out by the Information and External Security Agency (AISE, for its acronym in Italian) under General Luciano Carta . 20 days ago, three the delivery of a new proof of life, negotiations intensified . To the secret agents who were already in the area, other specialists recently arrived from Rome were added, as Italian media reconstructed.

The delivery was made in the early hours of Saturday in a place 30 kilometers from Mogadishu. According to intelligence sources cited by Italian media, the release came after the payment of a ransom of between 2 and 4 million euros. The operation was carried out in conjunction with the secret services of Somalia and Turkey (in Somalia, Ankara runs a large military base where Turkish forces train the Somali military) and was complicated by the wave of floods that in recent days hit the area in which Silvia was captive.

Silvia Romano smiles, behind a veil and a mask to protect herself from COVID-19 at a military airport in Rome (Reuters)
Silvia Romano smiles, behind a veil and a mask to protect herself from COVID-19 at a military airport in Rome (Reuters)

The next day, after spending a few hours at the Italian embassy in Somalia, he returned to his country. Wearing a chinstrap, disposable gloves and booties to protect himself against COVID-19, Romano returned to his homeland on Sunday after 18 months as a hostage in East Africa. He lowered his mask briefly to show a broad smile after getting off an Italian government plane at Rome-Ciampino International Airport . Looking at her for the first time in months, Romano was seen to have a veil over her hair and an African outfit.

Then she hugged her mother and other family members . “I feel fine, both physically and mentally,” he said. “Now I just want to spend time with my family. I am very happy to have returned.”

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