Italian non-governmental agencies will not be withdrawing volunteers from Iraq in the wake of the kidnapping of two Italian women in Baghdad, along with two of their Iraqi colleagues on 7 September. The determination to remain in Iraq was confirmed by the president of the Italian association of NGOs, Sergio Marelli, in answer to speculation that there would be a departure of Italian volunteers from Iraq in the next few days.
It is estimated that there are at least 20 Italians in Iraq working with nine Italian-run NGOs based in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk. They provide healthcare services, educational support and the distribution of emergency supplies.
The two Italians taken hostage, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, work for the Rome-based NGO, "Un Ponte per" which was founded in Italy in 1991 to oppose the embargo imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf war. It then extended its operations to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, into Turkish Kurdistan and in 1999 it also worked to distribute medical supplies to refugees from Kosovo. "Un Ponte per" has about 500 volunteers and has offices in five Italian cities: Rome, Milan, Naples, Trento and Udine. On 10 September it is organising demonstrations and sit-ins throughout Italy in support of the hostages.