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Italian Hostage Released In Afghanistan

Clementina Cantoni (file photo) 9 June 2005 -- The Afghan government says kidnapped Italian aid worker Clementina Cantoni was released today and is in good health.

The 32-year-old Cantoni was kidnapped by four gunmen on a Kabul street on 16 May.

Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali told a news conference tonight that no concessions were made to the kidnappers. Authorities said earlier they thought Cantoni had been abducted by a criminal gang rather than by Islamic militants.

Cantoni had managed a project that provides food and other services for 11,000 widows and their children.

Afghanistan's private Tolo-TV on 29 May aired a video of Cantoni. In the video, the CARE International worker is seated between two gunmen pressing the barrels of assault rifles against her head. Although their faces are covered, their hands suggest that both are young men. The voice of a third kidnapper can be heard telling Cantoni to state the names of her relatives.

During a 5 June sermon from St. Peter's Square in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI called for the release of Cantoni. "Let the painful experience that our sister is living through stimulate the search [while maintaining] peaceful and fraternal agreements between individuals and nations," Benedict said