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  1. ITV Report

Italy and UK attempt to play down row over hostage rescue

Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara was killed by his captors after being taken hostage in Nigeria. Photo: Press Association

Italy and UK have attempted to play down the row over the Nigerian rescue attempt, despite Italian officials previously branding the lack if information from the UK as a "slap in the face".

Italian diplomat Antonio Puri Purini said the Italian public could be expected to feel a sense of "humiliation" after the way events played out, and accused Britain of acting with an air of superiority.

It has emerged that Italian officials were only informed of the Nigerian rescue attempt after it was underway.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata met earlier today at the informal Foreign Ministers meeting in Copenhagen. They discussed the recent hostage rescue operation in Nigeria following yesterday’s conversation between Prime Ministers Monti and Cameron.

Mr 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 underway."

– Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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

Building firm contractors, Britain Chris McManus and his Italian colleague Franco Lamolinara died as Nigerian troops and UK Special Boat Service (SBS) commandos tried to end their nine months in captivity.

It is understood the men's captors killed the colleagues before they could be reached by the rescue team.

The bid to rescue the men was apparently brought forward because the kidnappers - believed to be members of a jihadi group associated with al Qaida - became aware that the net was closing around them.

There were reports of a fierce firefight after the house in the north-western town of Sokoto was surrounded.

We contacted the Italians as the operation was getting under way, but this was a very fast-moving situation.

Our priority was to respond to the situation on the ground and to do everything we could to try and secure the safe release of the hostages."

– Downing Street statement
David Cameron making a statement about the men's deaths.

A Downing Street spokesman hit back at suggestions by the Italian government they did not consent to the failed rescue mission.

The spokesman said Prime Minster David Cameron did not offer any apology for the way in which the mission unfolded.

It had been clear for some time that one option was an attempt to rescue the two men, and Downing Street was not aware of Italy raising any objection to a possible mission.

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

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

– A Downing Street spokesman.

An investigation into the rescue mission will be handled by the Nigerian authorities.

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