Kidnap industry flourishes


ROME -- The pope, the president, the parliament and millions of other Italians rejoiced recently at the release of an 8-year-old boy kidnapped 17 month ago. But for Marco Fiora and his parents the nightmare continues.

Marco Fiora emerged from 519 days of captivity in the rugged Aspromonte mountains of Calabria a bewildered, frightened and - according to one psychiatrist -- angry child who felt betrayed by his parents and unable to respond to their outpouring of emotion.


Marco's ordeal was extreme because of his age, but it is not unusual in Italy. Kidnappings for ransom reached a high of 63 in 1975: one victim was a 1-year-old boy held several weeks for a $250,000 ransom. There were 22 kidnappings last year and 26 in 1986.

Members of the so-called Kidnappers Anonymous still hold seven other victims seized over the last 26 months, including a vacationing Neapolitan factory owner abducted Aug. 4, two days after Marco's release and only 5 miles away.


In a massive manhunt, a force of 2,000 police is combing the rugged, bandit-ridden area of about 100 square miles where authorities say a total of 120 kidnap victims have been held during the last two decades. Defense Minister Valerio Zanone ordered in another 2,000 soldiers for training exercises Sept. 7 to Dec. 31.

Marco was a lively 7-year-old first grader when he was dragged from his parents' car on a quiet suburban street in Turin the morning of March 2, 1987.

He reappeared this Aug. 2 after his parents, owners of a garage and a bakery, managed to pay a ransom of $210,000 and promised $150,000 more. The money was not collected, apparently because of the manhunt.

In a filthy T-shirt and trousers held up with a string, his unwashed hair hanging to his narrow shoulders, Marco was so weak he had to crawl part way to a forester's hut to seek help. On his left arm were vivid scars left by a chain.

He was reluctant to speak. At a police officer's apartment where he was bathed, fed and given fresh clothes, television cameras showed him wide-eyed, submitting as passively to a barber cutting his hair as he did to the hugs of his weeping father, Gianfranco, 46.


When he talked to his tearful mother, Piera, 42, who was waiting at the family home, the child's first words were: 'Mamma, why didn't you want to pay the ransom?'

A television newsman commented on how 'calm and cool' Marco seemed.

'He's not cool. He's angry,' said psychiatrist Leonardo Ancona of Catholic University of Rome. He said the boy and his parents probably all would require therapy to deal with their traumas.

The shepherds who kept Marco chained in a derelict house throughout his captivity apparently went out of their way to make him angry.

'They said that my father was a rotten man who didn't want to pay, that I should hate him,' Marco told police.

'They threatened me with a pistol at my temple once.'

Marco's release dominated the news in Italy. Television news programs were almost entirely devoted Marco. The story even led newspapers devoted to sports.

President Francesco Cossiga sent a 'welcome home' telegram. Pope John Paul II, who made a public appeal for Marco's release Feb. 27, said he participated 'in the family's joy' and wished the Fioras 'all good things.' Hundreds of neighbors waited for hours outside the family home to applaud the boy's homecoming.


Well-wishers also included organizers of a concert in his behalf July 22 and 108 members of parliament who called on the government July 28 to act in behalf of Marco and other kidnap victims believed held in the Aspromonte mountains.

In Turin, investigators said they had eight suspects in custody. They said one was Agazio Garzaniti, 46, a bricklayer who knew the Fiora family.

Police Mobile Squad Chief Pietro Sassi described Garzaniti as 'the key man in the 'ndrangheta in Turin.' The 'ndrangheta is the Calabrian version of the Sicilian Mafia.

On Marco's third day at home, his father reported the child finally ventured across the street for ice cream and stopped waking up in fright in the middle of the night. But, Fiora said, the sight of a police car made him scream.

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