Police said Monday that a U.S. organization was to receive the photographs of Americans held hostage in Lebanon that were seized in a Lebanese woman's luggage at Milan's airport last week.
The woman was supposed to deliver the pictures and a handwritten letter bearing hostage Alann Steen's name to an Italian arms trader, Aldo Anghessa, police said. The photographs were of Steen, Terry Anderson and a third man."Anghessa acted as a go-between between the two parties. One party was a Lebanese organization," said Michele Serra, head of Milan's anti-terrorist police.
He said the other group was American but refused to elaborate on the identity of either organization or say if the U.S. government was involved.
He also said police still did not know if Anghessa was part of an effort to free the hostages: "We still must understand if Anghessa was trying to seriously negotiate the possibility (of a hostage release) or was simply attempting a swindle."
Anghessa, who has been linked to Italian and Swiss secret services and was at the center of an international arms scandal last year, was questioned by police after the woman's arrest Thursday after arriving at Milan's Linate airport on a flight from Beirut. Anghessa was released, but police planned to interrogate him again soon, Serra said.
Italian media speculated that Anghessa may have been acting as a go-between in efforts to free the U.S. hostages in Lebanon or could have been involved in a possible exchange of hostages for drugs.
The Rome daily La Repubblica reported Sunday that Anghessa had ties to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The U.S. Embassy refused comment on the report.
The Lebanese woman, identified as Aline Ibrahim Rizkallah, 36, was jailed and charged with carrying $1,000 in counterfeit U.S. bills and 50 grams of heroin, police said.
The drug was "probably a sample for negotiating some sort of future shipment of drugs from Middle East," Serra said. The woman said Anghessa was not connected to the drug shipment, police said.