Kuwait honours two Italian pilots for bravery

May 29, 2011

Italian newspaper clipping of the plane crash

Kuwait has honoured two Italian pilots who took part in the 1991 liberation of the country and who were held prisoners by Iraq for 47 days.

Captains Gianmarco Bellini and Maurizio Cocciolone were captured by Iraqi forces on January 18, 1991 when their Tornado fighter bomber was shot down shortly after the launch of the war.

“We honor the sons of Italy who helped Kuwait,” Shaikh Jaber Duaij Al Sabah, Kuwait’s ambassador to Italy, said at the ceremony held in Rome. He praised the pair for their “courage and fortitude as they confronted hardships in captivity.”

The diplomat also lauded Italy for supporting Kuwait “in the face of the blatant aggression, opening up its air space for the air forces that took part in the liberation operation and contributing with combat units for the ground action.”

“This supportive stance solidified further the friendly ties between Kuwait and Italy,” said the ambassador as he granted memorial awards to the veteran pilots,Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) reported.

The honouring ceremony was part of Kuwait’s celebrations of its 50th Independence Day, its 20th Liberation Day and the fifth anniversary of the Emir’s accession to power.

Bellini said that the honouring by Kuwait reflected “the genuine compassionate character of Kuwaitis and the civilization of this beautiful country.”

Cocciolone said that the 1991 war of liberation was the only just war he has known throughout his life.

The ceremony was attended by Italian political and military figures who included Senators Mario Palombo and Domenico Gramazio, General Cesare Marinelli of the Italian Army, Roberto Commelli of the Italian Airforce, and Colonel Alessandro Casarsa of the Carabinieri.

Bellini and Cocciolone were the only Italian Prisoners of War during the war. Their plane was hit by Iraqi anti aircraft fire and they had to eject. They were captured by the Iraqi Republican Guard. Cocciolone was shown on Iraqi television the following day in a propaganda video.

Both Bellini and Cocciolone were released on March 3, 1991.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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