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Mariani freed: Wide-ranging diplomatic action, says Terzi

The release of Mariasandra Mariani was the result of “wide-ranging diplomatic action with the governments of the region, with the focus on the absolute and priority need to safeguard the life of the hostage, an Italian citizen who was kept in terrible conditions for 14 months, an appalling length of time”.This was the comment of Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, after the release of the Florentine tourist kidnapped in Algeria in February 2011.

The Head of the Ministry’s Crisis Unit, Claudio Taffuri, welcomed Mariani at Ciampino this morning, along with her family. He explained that “the MFA, through its Crisis Unit, guaranteed the coherence and effectiveness of the overall effort to achieve this outcome. Over the past 14 months the Unit has followed all of the complex, sensitive stages leading to Mariasandra Mariani’s release and has kept in constant touch with her family”.

Mariani’s family thanked the Foreign Ministry. “We’re delighted with the way things have turned out. We’d like to thank the institutions, the Foreign Ministry and the Crisis Unit”, said her sister, Angela. She added that after the meeting at the public prosecutor’s office in Rome, Mariani and her family would be going home to San Casciano in Val di Pesa, in the Province of Florence.

The kidnappers, members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), held the tourist hostage for 14 months in the Sahara desert. She arrived at Ciampino Military Airport on a flight from Burkina Faso at around 8.10 this morning. Her arrival was kept strictly private, with the landing area kept off-limits to journalists and television film-crews. On disembarking from the Falcon that brought her home, Mariani looked very thin. She rejoined her family with an emotional embrace. Then she headed to the public prosecutor’s office to brief them on her imprisonment.

“I’ve spent more than 440 days in hell, that’s why I can say that I’m back in heaven now”, Mariani repeated to her father, Lido, when he asked her about the kidnapping this morning. The two spoke on the phone after the aircraft landed at Ciampino. Mariano then said that she had kept the clothes she’d been wearing during her ordeal: “I didn’t throw them away. I’m going to take them home to San Casciano, where I’ll make a bonfire of them”.

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