Argentinian woman leaves Syria after two year ‘kidnap’ ordeal

Nancy Roxana Papa, an 54-year-old Argentinian woman who was recently released after being kidnapped since 2016, speaks to the press at the Bab al-Hawa crossing with Turkey on October 30, 2018 ahead of being handed over to Turkish authorities. (AFP)
Updated 02 December 2018

Argentinian woman leaves Syria after two year ‘kidnap’ ordeal

  • Nancy Roxana Papa had accepted the invitation of a Syrian man she had met online three years earlier
  • She traveled to Turkey in 2016 before entering Syria

BAB AL-HAWA: A 54-year-old Argentinian woman who was lured into war-wracked Syria two years ago on a marriage promise was finally on her way home on Saturday, a Syrian rebel official said.
History teacher Nancy Roxana Papa had accepted the invitation of a Syrian man she had met online three years earlier and traveled to Turkey in 2016, before entering Syria.
“She returned to Turkey on Saturday after the required legal documents... were completed” for her entry into Turkish territory, said Bassam Sahiouni, an official from the local rebel authority in Idlib province.
On October 30, the “Salvation Government” — set up in rebel-held Idlib by the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group — handed Papa over to the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, a Turkish non-governmental organization, at the Bab Al-Hawa border post.
She then had to remain in Syria for over a month to await completion of administrative and legal procedures for her repatriation.
The Argentinian teacher had appeared on October 30 at a news conference organized by HTS at the border, where she thanked her country’s diplomatic services, the Turkish authorities and the “Salvation Government.”
“You saved my life,” she said that day, drying her tears after Sahiouni explained the circumstances of her misadventure.
Sahiouni had given an account of the teacher’s apparent ordeal at the news conference.
She met the man posing as her future husband in a hotel in Turkey and “he told her they would go to Syria to greet his parents,” the rebel official said.
She entered Syria illegally in 2016 and was immediately kidnapped by a gang that was waiting for her on the other side of the border and contacted her daughter to demand a ransom, Sahiouni said.
He added that she managed to escape from her captors after a year and survived in the war-torn area by staying with residents and moving from home to home.
The “Salvation Government” sought to address the case earlier this year and tried without success to contact Argentina’s foreign ministry, before the Humanitarian Relief Foundation eventually dealt with her situation, Sahiouni said.
Last year, HTS reunited a Belgian girl with her mother, after the death of the four-year-old’s father, a radicalized criminal who had entered Syria with the child in May 2017.
In February 2018, the same authorities handed over to Turkish officials two Canadian nationals who were held for several weeks after entering Syria for obscure family reasons.


French extremist trained by Paris attacks leader given 12-year jail term

Updated 25 February 2020

French extremist trained by Paris attacks leader given 12-year jail term

  • Reda Hame, 34, was sentenced to 12 years in jail

PARIS: A French court on Tuesday handed a 12-year jail term to a computer technician who traveled to Syria to wage war and trained under the suspected ringleader of the 2015 Paris attacks.
Reda Hame, 34, who was convicted of participating in a criminal conspiracy aimed at harming people, received weapons training and a mission from Abdelhamid Abaaoud during his eight-day stay in Syria in the summer of 2015.
Abaaoud, who is believed to have coordinated the November 2015 attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris, taught him how to fire an assault rifle and handle a grenade.
He then dropped him off at the Turkish border with orders to return home and carry out an attack on behalf of the Daesh group.
Hame told investigators that Abaaoud, who was killed in a shootout with French police after the Paris attacks, asked him if he would be prepared to shoot into a crowd, giving as an example a rock concert.
But the Paris native, who was arrested on his return to France, insisted that he never had any intention of following Daesh’s orders.
Styling himself an Daesh deserter, he told the court he only pretended to accept his mission to escape the horrors of the Syrian war and regretted ever enlisting with Daesh.
The prosecution had challenged his account of his change of heart, portraying him as a dutiful Daesh “soldier” who had traveled to Syria to join Daesh “at a time when the most hardine, those who will go on to attack Europe and France, are leaving (France for Syria).”
In sentencing Hame to 12 years in jail — the prosecution had sought a 20-year term — the court “showed clemency,” the defendant’s lawyer Archibald Celeyron said.
Hundreds of young French radicals traveled to Syria and Iraq to join Daesh before US-led coalition forces dislodged the insurgents from the last holdouts last year.
Dozens have returned home and been jailed in France but some scores more remain in camps in Syria.