MS Risk Blog

Italians Kidnapped In Libya Arrive Back In Italy as Reports Surface Over Possible Operation to Rescue Them

Posted on in Libya title_rule

On 6 March, two Italians kidnapped last July in Libya returned to Italy amidst growing questions over why two others snatched with them were killed.

Gino Pollicardo, 55, and Filippo Calcagno, 65, were met by relieved relatives at Rome’s Ciampino aiport in the early hours and were whisked away in order to be debriefed by Italy’s foreign ministry and intelligence services. They were amongst four employees of Italian construction company Bonatti who were kidnapped in the Mellitah region west of Tripoli in July.

On Thursday, 3 March, the Italian Foreign Ministry reported that two Italian civilians held hostage might have died in a gun battle that occurred in the western Libyan city of Sabratha. On Wednesday, 2 march, Libyan security forces disclosed that they had killed seven suspected Islamic State (IS) fighters in raid on a military hideout in Sabratha. They later released photographs of two Western men who also apparently died during the attack. In a statement, the Italian Foreign Ministry disclosed that the men might be two of the four employees of Italian construction company Bonatti who were kidnapped in the north African country last July. It named the possible victims as Fasuto Piano, 60, and Salvatore Failla, 47, adding that further checks were being carried out.

On Friday, 4 March, the remaining two Italian civilians were freed, just 48 hours after two fellow captives were allegedly executed by IS militants. The families of Pollicardo and Calcagno confirmed that the pair had been released, with a spokesman for security forces in Sabratha disclosing that the two men were released during a raid early on Friday, adding, “(they) were found alive during a raid by the local fighters against one of the hideouts of Islamic State in Sabratha.

Since their release however Italian media reports have since suggested that all four had been close to being freed, before plans went awry. Italian media reports have indicated that Piano and Failla, who had been separated from Pollicardo and Calcagno, had been in an IS convoy that was attacked by militiamen from Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn), which is the armed wing of the non-recognized government based in Tripoli.

While the murders have increased pressure in Italy for the country to deploy Special forces to Libya, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has cautioned that any intervention would first need parliament’s approval and that Rome would not be rushed. That sentiment was echoed on 6 Mach by Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who stated in an interview with Il Sole 24 Ore daily that “we need to avoid Libya sinking into chaos where tragic episodes like this one involving our hostages can proliferate.” He noted however that “it must be clear that there are no apparent shortcuts, muscular displays. Its true, time is short, but thee is no quick war at our door,” adding, “the government is aware of the errors of the past and is working to create the conditions for stability in Libya.”

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