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August 25, 2005
Italians Hid Iraqi 'Insurgents'

The AP reports that the Italian Red Cross hid four Iraqi terrorists in exchange for the release of two Italian aid workers last year -- who promptly turned around and promoted their cause once they returned to Italy. The Italian government did not share this information with the US, and allowed the Iraqis to go free once they received the medical treatment they needed from their wounds sustained fighting Coalition forces:

Italy's Red Cross treated four Iraqi insurgents and hid them from U.S. forces in exchange for the freedom of two Italian aid workers kidnapped last year in Baghdad, an official said in an interview published Thursday.

Maurizio Scelli, the outgoing chief of the Italian Red Cross, told La Stampa newspaper that he kept the deal secret from U.S. officials, complying with "a nonnegotiable condition" imposed by Iraqi mediators who helped him secure the release of Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, who were abducted on Sept. 7 and freed Sept. 28.

"The mediators asked us to save the lives of four alleged terrorists wanted by the Americans who were wounded in combat," Scelli was quoted as saying. "We hid them and brought them to Red Cross doctors, who operated on them."

They took the wounded insurgents to a Baghdad hospital in a jeep and in an ambulance, smuggling them through two U.S. checkpoints by hiding them under blankets and boxes of medicine, Scelli reportedly said. ...

Scelli told the newspaper he informed the Italian government of the deal and of the decision to hide it from the U.S. through Gianni Letta, an undersecretary in Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government who has been in charge of Italy's hostage crises in

"Keeping quiet with the Americans about our efforts to free the hostages was an irrevocable condition to guarantee the safety of the hostages and ourselves," he told La Stampa. He said Letta agreed.

This puts quite a different spin on a number of issues with the Italians in Iraq. When terrorists released the two aid workers last September, Italian dailies published reports of high-priced ransoms being paid. Italian Foreign Minister Francisco Frattini hotly disputed that any deal had been made, saying that the release showed the love and esteem in which the Arab world held Italy. Hardly; now we know that the Italians double-dealt us, and then allowed the two freed women to spout anti-American rants after they abused the Red Cross vehicles and broke with the Geneva Convention to conduct what amounted to an espionage mission.

Speaking of espionage, that piece of history may have had something to do with the Giuliana Sgrena incident earlier this year. Once again, the Italians failed to coordinate with us on a hostage release. One wonders what the Italians paid for the journalist, but what we do know is that they had no compunction about handling it dishonestly with the US.

How many other Iraqi terrorists have the Italians given safe conduct and transported in secret to avoid our capture? How many Iraqis and Americans have died at the hands of those terrorists that Italian manuevering saved from capture? Allies like this do us no good at all. Berlusconi owes the United States an apology and the Italian Red Cross should immediately get decertified in Iraq.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 25, 2005 12:10 PM

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