ROME – An Italian aid worker held hostage in Afghanistan for more than three weeks arrived home Friday saying she'd been "treated well," but she expressed concern for detainees still being held.
Premier Silvio Berlusconi (search) was among those gathered Friday evening at Rome's Ciampino military airport to greet Clementina Cantoni (search), 32. He went aboard the plane and escorted Cantoni, looking pale and emotional, onto Italian soil.
Cantoni's first request after her release to the Italian Embassy was for a bowl of spaghetti, said the Italian ambassador in Kabul, Ettore Francesco Sequi.
After her return, she went to Rome's courthouse, where anti-terrorism prosecutors waited to question her. She was accompanied by her parents and brother.
Cantoni was released Thursday in Kabul, the Afghan capital, where she had been abducted by armed men May 16. She was working for CARE International (search) on a project helping Afghan widows and their families.
"Thank you, everything is OK," Cantoni, wearing a black shirt and jeans, was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency. "I have been treated well. But I think about other people who are still held hostage."
The Afghan government said Thursday no ransom was paid or concessions made to obtain Cantoni's release.
But Italian papers said Cantoni's freedom was secured thanks to the release from prison of the head kidnapper's mother. ANSA said the mother was detained for alleged involvement in a previous abduction case.
The alleged exchange occurred in an apartment in Kabul with a local businessman acting as a mediator, said the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Italy reacted with joy and relief at the news of Cantoni's release. Her parents broke into tears and hugged each other at their home in Milan, a family friend said. The country's top officials expressed their joy.
"Clementina free, the end of a nightmare," read the banner headline of Turin-daily La Stampa.
The release came after three weeks of near-daily protests by Afghan widows waving signs and chanting slogans. Nationally respected clerics issued a ruling against the kidnapping.