The Italian Foreign Minister announced in a statement on April 13, 2013, that four Italian journalists abducted in northern Syria on April 4, 2013, had been released. News accounts reported that the journalists were believed to have been held for more than a week by the rebel group, Jabhat Al-Nusra, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, but the foreign ministry did not immediately confirm the information.
The Italian media reported that the journalists, who were all on assignment for Rai TV, included Amedeo Ricucci, a correspondent; freelancer Susan Dabbous; freelance photographer Elio Colavolpe; and cameraman Andrea Vignali. The journalists returned to Turkey briefly after their release, and then flew to Italy on April 13, 2013, news reports said.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Dabbous said her abductors, which included Algerians and Moroccans, had detained the crew because they feared the journalists would blame them for the desecration of churches in northern Syria. She said the group had been filming the destruction of churches in a Christian town.
Ricucci told the Italian news agency Ansa that the militants had thought the journalists were spies who had filmed their base.
Dabbous corrected earlier reports that said the journalists had been betrayed by their fixer. She said that they would still be in captivity if it weren't for him.
The leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq on April 9, 2013 officially announced the group's merger with Jabhat al-Nusra in an audio statement posted on jihadist websites. But news accounts reported that the majority of the Syrian opposition did not support Al-Qaeda's goals. In response to the Al-Qaeda announcement, Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib said, "The bottom line is that Al-Qaeda ideology doesn't suit us."
The Committee to Protect Journalists did not report on the kidnappings after Rai requested a media blackout amid efforts to secure the release of the journalists.