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Failed rescue operation stirs row between Italy and Britain

  Friday 9th March 2012

After Nigeria failed rescue operation, Italian anger mounts. A diplomatic row between Italy and Britain is bursting today following the rescue mission to free two hostages – one British and one Italian- held in Nigeria.

British construction worker Chris McManus, 28, and his colleague, engineer Franco Lamolinara, 47,  were both working for an Italian building company and had been held by their captors for ten months. The pair was killed yesterday when a British special forces rescue operation, initiated by Prime Minister David Cameron, ended in tragedy.

British worker Chris McManus and Italian Franco Lamolinara died yesterday in a failed rescue operation in Nigeria

British worker Chris McManus and Italian Franco Lamolinara died yesterday in a failed rescue operation in Nigeria

Italian officials were furious at being kept in the dark by Downing Street over the operation, with authorities in Rome only being informed once the mission to save Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara was under way.

Yesterday night, David Cameron took responsibility for the action saying: “After months of not knowing where they were being held, we received credible information about their location. A window of opportunity arose to secure their release.”

It is the second time in two years that a rescue operation ordered by Mr Cameron fails. Scottish aid-worker Linda Norgrove died when the special forces tried to rescue her from the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Despite the Prime Minister’s official spokesman having said that “we [the Government] contacted the Italians yesterday as the operation was getting under way”, today, in Rome, a number of Italian MPs are demanding clarifications over why Italian authorities were kept in the dark about the operation.

Former Italian prime minister Massimo D’Alema declared: “We need to clarify the circumstances that led to the British authorities deciding to go ahead with this military operation without informing the Italian authorities, as an Italian national was involved.”

Licia Ronzulli, from People of Freedom Party stormed: “Mr Cameron cannot decide for Mr. Monti. Italy is a sovereign state and is a member of the European Union and should be considered as such.”

While Italy’s Northern League Party suggested to recall the Italian ambassador in London in a sign of protest, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said to RAI 3 microphones: “The behaviour of the British Government in not informing Italy is inexplicable. A political and diplomatic clarification is necessary.”

The anger and frustration was clearly present in the headlines: “An unacceptable slap and sorry is not enough”, titled the main national newspaper Corriere della Sera, while “Rome was not told” was the headline in La Stampa.

Number 10 said earlier that no official complaint had been received from the Italian government, and the UK had not made an apology.

Annalisa Ratti

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