Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Beirut/Rome - Syrian forces freed two Italians workers from a group of rebels who kidnapped them earlier this month, Syrian state media said on Saturday.

Italy's foreign minister described the news of the release as a positive development.

“Our forces have managed to release two Italians who were kidnapped by terrorists in the Damascus countryside,” state television said on Saturday.

The Italians, employees of a subcontractor for energy technology group Ansaldo Energia, were detained by armed men on July 17 as they drove to the airport to fly out of the country, according to Italian media.

“The release of our two nationals by the groups that held them in the last few days is a very positive development,” Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said in a statement.

“We continue to follow developments through all available channels, to arrive at a swift conclusion,” he said without offering any other details.

A report in Italian daily Secolo XIX had said last Saturday that the men were travelling in a convoy of 20 staff who worked for Ansaldo when they were captured.

The two men had become separated from the group when it was stopped and ended up in the hands of a rebel group, the newspaper said, citing a colleague of the men who managed to leave Damascus. The others made it home safely. - Reuters