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Italy's longest kidnapping for ransom ends

SIDERNO, Italy -- A 20-year-old man who was held by kidnappers for more than two years even though his father reportedly paid a $4 million ransom has been released, ending Italy's longest abduction case, authorities said.

Police said Carlo Celadon, who was seized at age 18 from his family's villa on Jan. 25, 1988, was released late Saturday. He had been held in chains during most of his 831 days in captivity in Italy's southern Calabria region, authorities said.

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Celadon's release came less than three weeks after police mounted a successful search in the same area for an 8-year-old girl who was being held by a gang of kidnappers.

Italy's wealthy families have been plagued by gangs in recent years who hold family members hostage for massive ransoms.

Carlo Celadon's father, Candido Celadon, reportedly paid a $4 million ransom in October, 1988, to the gang that held his son.

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Police said Carlo Celadon was dishelved and weighed only 88 pounds when he was discovered wandering 10 miles from the Calabrian city of Locri after authorities received a telephone call saying he had been released.

Celadon said he had been held with chains around his neck and wrists -- first in a foliage covered pit and then in a ravine in the rugged remote Aspromonte mountains of Calabria.

'I was always kept in chains,' he told reporters at a local hotel, where he was taken after he was found by authorities. 'When the gang thought they heard someone approaching or a helicopter flying overhead, I would be blindfolded.'

Celadon said the kidnappers fed him mostly salami.

'The food was terrible,' he said. 'I didn't go hungry, but I was often too depressed to eat.'

The youth called his imprisonment 'a psychological torture.'

'I stayed as strong as I could by thinking about my girlfriend Gabriella. I never had doubts about her faith, no matter what the kidnappers said to me. They also told me at least 10 times that my father had made appointments to pay the ransom. But they said that the arrangement had failed because he had brought along the police.'

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Celadon said the abductors had threatened to cut off one of his ears to show the seriousness of their intentions.

'They also beat me twice, once when I was crying and another time when they caught me praying,' he said. 'I prayed a lot. And I'll pray more to thank God for my release.

'I had nightmares, dreaming that I had died or that Gabriella had died,' he said. 'And when I woke up, it was time to begin another day of terror.'

Candido Celadon, who was flown in a government plane to be reunited with Carlo, said he was shocked by his son's appearance.

'I relived the day years ago whenI saw my uncle, who had just been released from a Nazi concentration camp,' he said. 'I want to carry photos of Carlo to the government and show them to what level we've sunk in an advanced society such as ours.'

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