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Kidnapping there of two Italian women

The government in Rome, which was criticised for not doing enough to save the life of an Italian journalist held hostage in Iraq last month, has been swift to react to the kidnapping there of two Italian women aid workers. The cabinet held an emergency meeting in Rome yesterday evening, following news the two women had been seized from their office in Baghdad overnight, and pledged to seek a united national response to the hostage-taking. "The government is convinced of the need for a united national response in the face of terrorism and has scheduled a meeting for tomorrow with representatives of the opposition," Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's office said in a statement after the crisis meeting. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini had already contacted his counterparts in Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, who had assured him of their "full personal commitment" to ensure the Italians' release, his ministry said. Italy, a strong supporter for the US-led war in Iraq, is still recovering from the execution of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, who was murdered on August 26 after Rome refused to bow to militant demands for it to pull its 3000 soldiers out of the oil-rich country, informs the Australian. According to the Telegraph, Two Italian women were among four people kidnapped in Baghdad yesterday when 20 armed men burst into the offices of a humanitarian group in a suburb of the Iraqi capital. Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, both 29, were taken along with two Iraqi employees of the Bridge to Baghdad charity. Fellow aid workers said the two women were threatened with abduction a week ago. A witness to the kidnapping said the men "knew who they wanted" and the women were "pulled away by their hair, screaming". The abduction is particularly disturbing because aid workers have been largely ignored during Iraq's escalating hostage crisis. It is only the second time that foreign women have been targeted. Two Japanese women were among a group kidnapped in April but both were released unharmed. Last night Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, called an emergency cabinet meeting in Rome to discuss the kidnapping. Witnesses said about 20 men armed with AK-47 assault rifles and pistols with silencers hauled away Italian women Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, along with two Iraqis, during a bold daylight raid in central Baghdad. On hearing the news, Berlusconi returned early to Rome for a crisis meeting with his defence, interior and foreign ministers. "The government, convinced that terrorism must be confronted with the unity of the country, has proposed a meeting tomorrow with representatives of the opposition," he said in a statement. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini contacted representatives of Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims in Bagdad who strongly condemned the kidnapping and requested the immediate release of the two women, the statement added, publishes the STUFF.

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