Boy free after kidnap ordeal

AN EIGHT-year-old boy was flown to Paris yesterday to recover from a six-month ordeal at the hands of kidnappers on the Italian island of Sardinia. Farouk Kassam's head had been shaved and a bandage covered his right ear, part of which was cut off and sent to his family in an envelope last month. He had been held in remote island caves and forests.

Italian justice officials denied press speculation that the boy's family had paid around one-third of a pounds 3m ransom demanded by the kidnappers. The gang had let Farouk go as 300 police closed in on their mountain hideout, the officials insisted.

But one of the country's most notorious convicted criminals, Graziano Mesina, 64 - dubbed 'The Scarlet Rose' - told reporters he had helped free the Canadian-born son of an Arab Belgian hotelier, but did not explain his role.

The kidnappers had threatened to 'cut him (Farouk) up into little pieces, bit by bit' if his father, Ali Fateh Kassam, did not come up with the ransom. Mr Kassam's assets were said to have been frozen, in line with Italian law, to prevent him from dealing with the kidnappers.

Farouk was seized in his pyjamas from his home on Sardinia's Emerald Coast on 15 January. His father had promised him a Paris holiday in a message broadcast on Italian television, in which he called on his son to 'be strong and practise your multiplication tables'. Yesterday, he was able to honour that promise.

The Italian government was on the point of sending 4,000 crack commandos to the Mediterranean island in the hope of flushing out the kidnap gang and freeing the boy. A police raid on Tuesday night last week just missed capturing the gang, which had been moving Farouk from cave to cave.

Farouk's plight had gripped all of Italy. Millions of people last month hung white sheets over their balconies in protest against the abduction.

A note from the boy to an Italian magazine, in which he pleaded 'Help me, mummy', tugged at the heart-strings of a nation nearly numbed by dozens of child kidnappings since the war. On Easter Day, Farouk's mother made an emotional appeal in her local church for Sardinians to end their traditional code of silence over Mafia activities.

Mesina, in and out of jail for the past half century, was mysteriously allowed out of detention in northern Italy last week and surfaced in Sardinia, ostensibly on humanitarian parole to visit his sister.

'It's true. I was involved,' he told reporters. But he failed to explain whether his involvement had been merely at the mediation stage. 'I can't say any more. I'm surrounded by policemen,' he said.

The scourge of Sardinia in the post-war years, Mesina later won a certain cult status. He once kidnapped a child but, saying he was overwhelmed by remorse, freed him hours later with money to buy chocolate on the way home.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen