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Italian woman kidnapped in Algeria is freed

From Hada Messia, CNN
updated 1:28 PM EDT, Tue April 17, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The freed hostage is expected back in Italy on Wednesday -- media reports
  • The tourist was kidnapped in Algeria in February 2011
  • Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb seized her near the Niger border

Rome (CNN) -- An Italian woman kidnapped in southern Algeria over a year ago has been freed, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said Tuesday.

Terzi said he had just told the family of Maria Sandra Mariani of her release.

"I join in their great joy and relief for this wonderful news," he said in a written statement. "My deepest gratitude goes to all of those who have contributed to the positive outcome with great dedication, constancy and professionalism."

Mariani, 54, was seized by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a sub-Saharan offshoot of the terrorism network, in the Algerian Sahara in February 2011, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Mariani, a tourist, was seized by armed men near the Niger border, the agency said.

She is expected to return to Italy on Wednesday, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported.

Her father, in Tuscany, wept with joy when he heard the news of her release, the newspaper said.

The Italian government has not given details of how Mariani's freedom was secured.

Another Italian, non-governmental organization worker Rossella Urru, was kidnapped last October by the same group and remains in their hands, the Italian foreign ministry said. She was abducted near the border with Mauritania.

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