Freed Italian, Spanish hostages head home
OUAGADOUGOU - One Italian and two Spanish hostages freed by kidnappers linked to al Qaeda in Mali headed home on Thursday after an accord which mediators said involved a prisoner swap.
The three aid workers, captured in Algeria last October, were flown home to Europe from the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou.
The Burkina officer who headed the operation said two Islamists in jail in Mauritania had been released as part of a deal with Mali's MUJWA, the al Qaeda splinter group which had been holding the hostages.
"I am well, and I hope to continue working in international cooperation," Italian Rossella Urru said as she was welcomed at Rome airport by elated family members, Prime Minister Mario Monti and Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.
"This will not stop me."
Urru said she had been treated well and thanked the Italian government for its efforts to secure her release.
"Welcome back to Italy. Never has a welcome been given with such warmth and joy," Monti told the former hostage.