He said, she said, Mr. President said: Conflicting tales over botched hostage rescue

by Lekan Olanrewaju

A Briton and an Italian held hostage in Kebbi State, were killed in a failed operation to rescue them, the British and Italian governments said on Thursday.

The rescue operation had reportedly been carried out by Nigerian security forces under British operational control, according to a statement from Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti’s office.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had authorised a rescue mission to go ahead saying there was “reason to believe that their lives were under imminent and growing danger.”

“The terrorists holding the two hostages made very clear threats to take their lives, including in a video that was posted on the internet,” he said. “Preparations were made to mount an operation to attempt to rescue Chris and Franco. Together with the Nigerian government, I authorised it to go ahead, with UK support.”

The British Government was also said to be in contact with the Italian Government every step of the way. However, Lucio Malan, of the Italian People of Freedom party, questioned why the British government did not inform Italian counterparts of its intentions before launching the operation.

“It is still to be explained why the Italian authorities were not informed although they are quite present on the territory of Nigeria,” he told BBC2’s Newsnight.

Labour MP Meg Hillier, of the all-party parliamentary group on Nigeria, also said: “I don’t know how fast moving this was but it does seem odd that an ally like Italy was not actually kept informed and it is important that we find out what happened and that the Prime Minister explains to the Italians.”

Details of the death of the hostage are also unclear, with the British Prime Minister saying initial indications were that the contractor and Mr Lamolinara were “murdered by their captors, before they could be rescued” and a Nigerian official claiming the two died in a crossfire during the rescue attempt,

The victim, Mr McManus, was a contract worker for the construction company B.Stabilini, who was in Nigeria to help build a bank. He had been held by terrorists associated with Islamist extremist group Boko Haram since May last year.

 

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