An anti-terror prosecutor in Milan has opened an investigation into Islamophobic threats made against Silvia Romano, an Italian aid worker kidnapped in Kenya in November 2018 and freed in Somalia on Saturday after being held hostage by militants.
Police have stepped up patrols around her home in Milan to protect her after she was targeted on social media.
|Silvia Romano, an Italian aid worker who was kidnapped by gunmen in Kenya 18 months ago, waves at Ciampino military airport in Rome, Italy, May 10, 2020. (Reuters)
After her release, she told Italian investigators that she became a Muslim during her captivity with the Al-Shabab group and adopted the name Aisha.
“I converted to Islam. It was my free choice. There was no coercion on the part of the kidnappers, who always treated me with humanity,” she told the Italian press after being greeted in Rome by her relatives and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
The charity worker, 25, returned home to Milan on Monday. She was working as a volunteer in an orphanage in Chakama village in southeast Kenya when she was seized by gunmen in 2018.
The issue of her conversion to Islam, her failure to speak ill of Al-Shabab and her adoption of Muslim garb sparked criticism and insults against her on social media.
The alleged ransom payment to a terror group — according to some Italian media, €1.5 million ($1.6 million) to €4 million were paid to Al-Shabab emissaries — coupled with her alleged naivety in going to a trouble spot without proper protection, were also under fire by right-wing activists.
Nico Basso, a right-wing city councilor in Asolo, near Venice, posted a photo of her captioned: “Hang her.”
The post, which he quickly removed, was accompanied by other offensive and vulgar statements against Romano.
Another anonymous social media post said: “People like her would be executed by US states that apply the death penalty.”
Simone Angelosante, a regional councilor for the far-right Islamophobic League party, wrote: “Have you ever heard of a Jew who, after being freed from a concentration camp, converted to Nazism and went home in an SS uniform?”
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