A six-month investigation by Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit has cast light on the shadowy world of hostage negotiations, revealing how some governments negotiate with armed groups and pay cash ransoms.
In one case, Italy paid millions of dollars for the release of one Italian and one Belgian journalist, according to Syrian fighters. In another, Al Jazeera obtained photographs of an $11m cash ransom paid by Italy to the armed Syrian group, al-Nusra Front, in return for the release of two aid workers.
Intelligence files obtained by Al Jazeera also reveal how Italy intervened in negotiations with Somali pirates and brokered a deal to pay $525,000 for the release of a dual Italian-South African citizen and his partner. The Italian and South African governments then fed the media a false story, claiming that a daring raid by the Western-backed Somali military had secured the hostages' release. Click here to read the full report.