It has long been suspected that some deal was made. The Danegeld in this case turns out to have been rather steep. “Italy Red Cross May Have Hidden Insurgents,” from AP, with thanks to a tea-loving snail:
ROME (AP) – Italy’s Red Cross treated four Iraqi insurgents with the knowledge of the Italian government last year and hid them from U.S. forces in exchange for the freedom of two kidnapped aid workers, a top Italian Red Cross official said in an interview published Thursday.
Maurizio Scelli, the outgoing chief of the Italian Red Cross, told the Turin newspaper La Stampa 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 Italians Simona Pari and Simona Torretta. They were abducted in Baghdad 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 an ambulance, smuggling them through two U.S. checkpoints under blankets and boxes of medicines, Scelli said.
Also as part of the deal, four Iraqi children with leukemia were brought to Italy for treatment, he said.
Scelli said he informed Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government of the deal and of the decision to hide it from the United States through Gianni Letta, an undersecretary in charge of Italy’s hostage crises in Iraq.
“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.