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Nigeria Hostage Mission: Diplomatic Row Between Italy And Britain Downplayed At Copenhagen (Pictures)

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The two men had been held hostage since May last year
The two men had been held hostage since May last year

The diplomatic row that broke out between Britain and Italy following a hostage rescue operation in Nigeria has been downplayed in a joint statement from Copenhagen, after William Hague met Italy's foreign minister Giulio Terzi.

Terzi had been demanding "the utmost clarity" from Britain as to why Italian authorities were not told of the rescue mission which ended with the deaths of Briton Chris McManus and Italian co-worker Franco Lamolinara.

The foreign minister insisted for information to be sent "as soon as possible, in the coming hours."

Following the meeting, relations seemed to be far more muted, saying that Foreign Secretary William Hague "made clear that there had been a limited opportunity to secure the release of the two hostages whose lives were in imminent and growing danger".

"Under these circumstances it was only possible to inform Italy once the operation was already getting under way," it added.

The statement went on: "Mr Terzi expressed deep sorrow and disappointment over the tragic outcome of the operation and both ministers agreed on the urgency of sharing full information to facilitate the reconstruction and understanding of these events."

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said on Friday that the UK's failure to tell Rome was "inexplicable" and demanded a political and diplomatic explanation.

Italian diplomat Antonio Puri Purini said the events had been an "unacceptable slap in the face" for his countrymen.

Writing in the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, he claimed Britain's nostalgia for its imperialist days had led it to act alone.


A soakaway pit in the building where the hostages were kept.

However Downing Street has defended its position ahead of the hostage rescue operation in Nigeria, saying that there had been "regular" meetings with the Italians over the past nine months.

"An option was always a rescue operation. We have been keeping them informed throughout."

He added: "Things moved quite quickly in recent days and we had to respond to that. The Prime Minister was asked for authorisation and gave that authorisation, but this was a Nigerian-led operation.

"In any situation such as this, we need to take the advice of those people on the ground closest to the situation. Their very strong advice was that it was important to act and to act quickly and that that was the best chance of getting these people out.

"Early indications are that both men were murdered by their captors before they could be rescued."


The building where tyres were burnt while kidnappers attempted to escape during the failed rescue operation.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond directly contradicted the Italian president's comments.

He told the BBC: "Well it isn't inexplicable. It's completely explicable what happened. It's very unfortunate, but it's completely explicable."

"Hammond explained how They were informed on it," he said. "I don't think they specifically approved it, they were informed of what was happening."

The Defence Secretary went on: "There was intelligence that they were about to be moved, possibly executed, and therefore the decision was to go in, aware of course that there were huge risks.

"Hostage rescue exercises always have huge risks attached ... but the decision was made that the best chance of saving their lives was to act."

Mr Cameron said on Thursday night that Mr McManus and Mr Lamolinara had been in "imminent and growing danger" and an opportunity had arisen to attempt to rescue them.

A video emerged on the internet, where the Nigerian terrorists threatened to kill the two hostages

"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.

The British and Italian construction workers were taken captive by terrorists in May last year. Earlier on Friday, the first pictures of the buildings in Sokoto, Nigeria, where the men were held hostage were released.

Charred and scorched, the rubble left behind is testament to the tyres set alight by terrorists before their escape. Boko Haram, the group which Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan claimed kidnapped the Britain and Italian is currently not on the British Government's list of international terrorist organisations banned under the Terrorism Act 2000.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We constantly keep the list under review."

However Boko Harem has now denied they were involved in the attacks.

"We have never taken anyone hostage. We always claim responsibility for our acts," said Abul Qaqa, spokesperson for the militant Islamist group.

According to Sky News Qaqa told reporters in a conference call:"We know how to settle our scores with anybody. Therefore the allegation that the kidnappers were members of our group is ridiculous."

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