9 Mar 2012

Italian president condemns UK’s failed rescue attempt

Foreign Affairs Correspondent

The Italian president lashes out at the UK for not informing his country before launching the operation to rescue an Italian and British hostage, which resulted in their deaths.

President Giorgio Napolitano added his voice to criticism of Britain’s failed rescue operation, calling the UK’s actions “inexplicable”.

“The behaviour of the British government in not informing Italy is inexplicable,” the Italian president told reporters. “A political and diplomatic clarification is necessary.”

Chris McManus and Italian hostage Franco Lamolinara, were killed on Thursday by their captors in Nigeria, either before or during the course of a joint British-Nigerian raid in north-west Nigeria.

Downing Street defended its actions and the UK ambassador in Rome is reportedly in contact with the Italian authorities.

The behaviour of the British government in not informing Italy is inexplicable. A political and diplomatic clarification is necessary. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano

The prime minister’s spokesman said that Britain and Italy had been in contact ever since the men were first kidnapped last May, and that the government’s Cobra emergency committee had met around 20 times to discuss the case.

“We contacted the Italians yesterday as the operation was getting under way, but this was a very fast-moving situation,” he said. “Our priority was to respond to the situation on the ground and to do everything we could to try and secure the safe release of the hostages.”

Italian Premier Mario Monti said he has asked Nigeria’s president for a “detailed reconstruction” of what went wrong during the operation. He was informed of the botched raid by Mr Cameron after it had taken place.

Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, ran a front page editorial on Friday morning saying the move by Britain was “an unacceptable slap” and a “humiliation” for Italy.

Pair were in ‘imminent danger’

David Cameron said on Thursday that UK authorities had taken action after being told that the men’s lives were in “imminent and growing danger”. He added that the government “received credible information about their location” after months of not knowing where the men were.

The pair of hostages had been working on a bank construction project in Nigeria when they were captured nine months ago. Nigerian troops worked with the UK Special Boat Service (SBS) commandos to try and rescue the pair on Thursday.

The Italian president lashes out at the UK for not informing his country before launching the operation to rescue an Italian and British hostage, which resulted in their deaths (Reuters)

The Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, has been held responsible for increased violence and kidnapping in the area.

A senior British government official said that the kidnappers appeared to be from an al-Qaida-linked cell within Boko Haram, but not within the group’s main faction.

Nigeria condemns the ‘murders’

Meanwhile some news agencies are reporting that men have been arrested under suspicion of kidnapping.

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan condemned the killings and added: “The perpetrators of the murderous act, who have all been arrested, (will) be made to face the full wrath of the law.”

Mr McManus’ family, who live in Oldham, said in a statement that they are “devasted” by the news.”During this ordeal we have relied heavily on the support of our family and friends which has never waned and has enabled us to get through the most difficult of times.

“We are also aware of the many people who were working to try and have Chris returned to our family, and his girlfriend. We would like to thank all of them for their efforts.”