Britain, Italy Discuss Botched Hostage Rescue in Nigeria

Posted March 9th, 2012 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Italy and Britain are trying to smooth over a diplomatic tension caused by a failed attempt to rescue two hostages in northwest Nigeria by saying it's urgent that Britain share information about the mission.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi discussed the issue with his British counterpart William Hague at an informal meeting Friday in Copenhagen.

Italy has been incensed that it was not advised by Britain ahead of the operation to rescue an Italian and a British hostage from their captors. Italian national Franco Lamolinara and his British colleague Chris McManus were both killed Thursday during the British-Nigerian rescue operation in Sokoto.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said Britain's decision not to consult or inform Italy was “inexplicable” and asked for an explanation.

“They did not inform or consult with Italy in respect of this forceful action, which could have – and in the end did have – this unfortunate consequence. A political and diplomatic clarification is necessary.''

Hague defended his country's decision. He told reporters in the Danish capital that there was no time because of the urgency of the situation.

“Because it was a very quick decision yesterday, that we had to make a decision very quickly, had to go ahead with this operation, we had very limited time, that constrained how much we were able to consult others. We were able to inform the Italian government as the operation got underway, but not to do more than that. But I think everybody understands the constraints involved, the rapid timing involved in a case like this, and I will be able to discuss it, of course, with my Italian colleague here at this meeting today.”

Hague is in Copenhagen for an informal meeting of European Union ministers.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday he approved the operation after getting information of the men's location and that their lives were in “imminent and growing danger.”

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has blamed the Islamic militant group Boko Haram for the kidnappings and said that some kidnappers have been arrested. But Boko Haram on Friday denied any involvement in the kidnapping of the two hostages who were killed during the botched rescue operation.

British and Nigerian officials say they believe the captors were from an al-Qaida-linked splinter cell of Boko Haram, rather than from the group's main leadership.

The hostages were kidnapped in May in northern Nigeria, where they were working for an Italian construction company. They later appeared in an Internet video with armed gunmen who claimed to be with the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Kidnappings are not uncommon in Nigeria's delta region, where tensions over oil profits run high, but they are rare in northwestern Nigeria where Sokoto is located, near the border with Niger.