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"It was no holiday," say Italians kidnapped in Iran

TEHRAN, June 21 (AFP) - Three Italians held for a week by kidnappers in southern Iran arrived here on Monday as the Iranian authorities denounced their abductors as "enemies of the Islamic Revolution."

"We were neither beaten nor tied up, but it really wasn't a holiday," Lorenzo Termite, one of the three, told a press conference at Tehran airport. "We never knew what could happen to us."

The three, employees of the Danieli steel works in the central city of Yazd, were released on Sunday and arrived in Tehran by plane Monday after spending the night in an apartment belonging to the police in Zahedan, the capital of the province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

Termite, another engineer, Riccardo Pasinato, and technician Giuseppe Zisa were seized on June 13 near the southern city of Kerman while on a visit to an ancient fort in the town of Bam.

The three Italians, who were in relatively good health and planned to remain in Iran, said they had been released without any violence after an apparent "deal" between the police and the abductors.

The Jahan-e-Eslam newspaper, which is close to the government, said the Italians were kidnapped by a certain "Sharbakhsh," the chief of a gang in Sistan-Baluchestan province.

An Iranian intelligence ministry official denounced the kidnappers on Monday as "enemies of the Islamic Revolution."

Speaking to the official IRNA news agency, the official, who was not identified, said the security forces had "acted wisely and rapidly" to secure the release of the three Italians.

The official added that the kidnapping "revealed new dimensions of the plots hatched by enemies of the Islamic Revolution to misportray the Islamic Republic as an unstable country.

"However, the issue finally turned out to be a point of strength for the Islamic Republic," the official said, describing kidnapping in Iran as a "rare" phenomenon.

The Italian ambassador to Iran, Ludovico Ortona, who welcomed the three men at Tehran airport, also described the abduction as "extremely rare" and said Iran "remains a hospitable and secure country."

Recounting the abduction, Termite said: "Everything happened very quickly.

"Six men armed with Kalashnikovs and guns pushed us into their car. Since their car wasn't big enough, they only took three of us, leaving the other two behind."

"We were driving on a main road, then a side street and after several hours we arrived in the desert where the kidnappers changed their ordinary civilian clothing for traditional Baluchi dress," he said.

After three days, the Italians and their abductors arrived in a mountainous region where they spent the nights outdoors wrapped in blankets.

"We asked them why we had been kidnapped, and they told us it was simply for an exchange and that one of the members of their group, Reza, had an uncle and a brother in the southern Iranian prison of Shiraz," he said.

They said they were released Sunday morning then driven in the early afternoon to a police checkpoint by two of their abductors.


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