• In April, Belgian teacher Pierre Piccinin and Italian journalist Domenico Quiric were reportedly abducted in Syria by armed men in pickup trucks, possibly with the Free Syrian Army.
• The men were released on Sunday and have been speaking out about their horrific experience.
• Both men claim they overheard an English-language Skype conversation suggesting Syrian rebels are behind chemical attack.
• 62-year-old journalist Domenico Quiric says radical Islamists want to topple Assad and extend global caliphate.
Two Europeans who were allegedly abducted and held hostage for several months in Syria claim they overheard a conversation between their captors suggesting the Syrian rebels were behind the deadly chemical attack in Damascus. The men were released on Sunday.
Belgian teacher Pierre Piccinin and Italian journalist Domenico Quiric both say they were able to eavesdrop on an English-language Skype session between their abductors in which they allegedly revealed that it was the Syrian rebels who perpetrated the attack so that the West would intervene.
Belgian teacher Pierre Piccinin poses for a portrait outside RTBF Television in Brussels on September 9, 2013. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Italian journalist Domenico Quirico (C), who was kidnapped in Syria in early April, answers to journalists after disembark from the airplane on September 9, 2013 at Ciampino military airport in Rome. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
"In this conversation, they said that the gas attack on two neighborhoods of Damascus was launched by the rebels as a provocation to lead the West to intervene militarily,” Quirico told the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa. "We were unaware of everything that was going on during our detention in Syria, and therefore also with the gas attack in Damascus."
Piccinin said he has a "moral duty" to share what he heard. He also stressed that he and his fellow hostage were completely cut-off from the outside world and didn't even know chemical weapons had been used in the first place.
"The government of Bashar al-Assad did not use sarin gas or other types of gas in the outskirts of Damascus,” Piccinin reportedly told Belgium's RTL radio station.
Quirico, a journalist, correctly acknowledged that there is no proof that the conversation he overheard was based on irrefutable facts. He was sure to point out that he "cannot say for sure that it is true because I have no means of confirming the truth of what was said." However, he also revealed that one of the three people he overheard in the alleged conversation identified himself as a Free Syrian Army general, according to the La Stampa report.
Italy's Quotidiano Nazionale reports Quirico as saying: “I am extremely surprised that the United States could think about intervening, knowing very well how the Syrian revolution has become international jihadism – in other words Al-Qaeda."
The 62-year-old journalist was highly critical of the opposition in Syria in another interview, claiming that radical Islamic groups operating in Syria want to take down Assad and "create a caliphate and extend it to the entire Middle East and North Africa," the Russia-friendly RT reports.
Peccinin agreed with Quirico, telling RTL that it would be “insane and suicidal for the West to support these people.”
Watch video of Piccinin's appearance on RTL below:
The two men were reportedly kidnapped in Syria last April by a group of heavily armed men in pickup trucks. They were believed to be with the Free Syrian Army, though that has not been verified.
Their experiences in captivity were apparently as horrible as one might imagine.
"There was sometimes real violence...humiliation, bullying, mock executions...Domenico faced two mock executions, with a revolver," Piccinin told RTL.
"These have been very tough months. We were beaten on a daily basis, we suffered two mock executions," Quirico told reporters, according to AFP.
"Scant detail has emerged as to how they were released, but Quirico's newspaper La Stampa said Italy's secret services had stepped up efforts to secure their freedom ahead of feared US military strikes," AFP reports.
Still, questions remain about the alleged Skype conversation on the chemical weapon attack. Firstly, why were the kidnappers speaking English? Why would the kidnappers have such a sensitive conversation on Skype near prisoners?
It should also be reiterated that, even though one of the men allegedly identified himself as a Free Syrian Army general, the conversation occurred between "three people whose identities I do not know, Quirico said.