The failed rescue attempt of kidnapped Chris McManus, UK citizen, and Franco Lamolinara, Italian citizen, has been condemned by the Italian authorities. The two men had been held hostage in Nigeria since they were kidnapped in May 2011. They were snatched from Birnin Kebbi which is in a relatively safe area of Nigeria. Previous hostages had been kidnapped in more volatile parts of the country. The two men had been taken hostage following a gun battle. Both worked for construction company, B Stabilini.On Thursday March 8, 2012, SBS UK forces guided by Nigerian troops attempted to a rescue of the men. It has since been revealed that this covert mission was unknown to the Italian authorities.
According to UK Prime Minister David Cameron the rescue attempt was launched as the men were in "imminent and growing danger".
A spokesperson for Number 10 said, "The UK had been in regular contact with the Italian authorities throughout the case. Rome was informed when the operation was under way and that the British prime minister spoke to his Italian counterpart after its conclusion." This does however mean that the Italain's were on board after the event and had not been consulted about the mission.
This unsuccessful rescue attempt has left Italians angry. According to Italian Senator Lucio Malan, speaking on UK BBC2 newsnight, "It is quite uncommon that a country that is involved is not informed before. Apparently it was a very difficult situation and it might have been the best decision but it is still to be explained why the Italian authorities haven't been informed."
Whilst there are many reasons why time could have been of the essence this mission leaves unanswered questions such as. Was it the best course of action? What had changed since May 2011, to warrant urgent action? Shouldn't Italy have been part of a two way mission?
A BBC security correspondent, Gordon Corera said, "The intelligence which led to the raid is believed to have come through from co-operation with the Nigerians, with a source identifying the house where the hostages were being kept. Events moved fast - British officials talk of a collapsing time frame with fears that the window of opportunity for a rescue might close as the men were either moved or killed. As members of the British SBS [Special Boat Service] entered the compound it's thought one kidnapper was shot but the hostages were then found dead. Officials say all the early indications are that they were killed by their captors."
To this blogger it seems odd that the UK had the Nigerian authorities in "the loop" but not the Italians. Updates will follow when more is known.
The group responsible for taking the two men hostage is believed to be part of Boko Haram. This militant Islamist sect has been responsible for bombings and killings across Nigeria for some time now. Al Qaeda links cannot be ignored and it seems that the War on Terror is far from over. The captors were apprehended in the mission and the Nigerian Premier has said they "would be made to face the full wrath of the law"
RIP and condolences to loved ones of the dead men.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog