Generally speaking, it is a common best-practice in hostage rescue operations to engage in coordination with all countries whose nationals are being held before embarking on a rescue operation.
Unfortunately, though, that did not occur prior to Thursday's (March 8) joint Nigerian-British rescue operation to free two Europeans, one British and one Italian, who had been kidnapped in May 2011 in the northwestern Nigerian town of Birnin-Kebbi. For reasons not known, some how the Italian government was completely left out of the pre-rescue coordination.
As is now well-known, Italian engineer Franco Lamolinara, 48, and his British colleague, Chris McManus, 28, were both shot and killed by hostage-takers on Thursday in a rescue operation authorized by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
On Saturday ( March 10), Mr. Lamolinara's body arrived in Rome and within hours an autopsy had been conducted that revealed that he had been shot and killed at close range a number of times. The rescue operation was conducted in Sokoto, in northwestern Nigeria.
Three suspected kidnappers died in the military operation; the rescue team also took into custody a number of kidnappers at the time.
COMMENT: Needless to say, it is understandable that the rescue operation has seriously strained British-Italian relations, where Italy has complained about the "inexplicable" failure of authorities to consult with his government before launching the failed rescue.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has defended his country's decision, saying there was no time to confer and that Italy was informed only once the rescue mission was already under way.
Following an EU foreign ministers' meeting yesterday (March 10) in Copenhagen, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi told journalists Hague assured him that his government will give Rome a "detailed explanation" and an accounting of what happened in Nigeria.
McManus was working for the construction company, B. Stabilini, when he was kidnapped on May 12, 2011, by gunmen who stormed his apartment in Birnin-Kebbi, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) away from Sokoto. Subsequently, Lamolinara also was abducted. A German colleague managed to escape by scaling a wall, but a Nigerian engineer was shot and wounded in the process.
A video later released showed the kidnappers claiming they belonged to al-Qaeda and threatening to kill McManus and Lamolinara if their demands were not met. British officials worked for months trying to track down the men as rumors floated that they had been taken out of the country.
Britain's Foreign Office has said the two Europeans were held by terrorists associated with Boko Haram, which is blamed for more than 300 killings this year alone. A senior British government official has said the kidnappers appeared to be from an al-Qaeda-linked cell within Boko Haram, but not within the group's main faction.
Interestingly, though, a spokesman for Boko Haram denied his group's involvement on Friday. (March 9). Yet, suspected sect members led authorities to the house the two kidnap victims were being held in.
As I said in my posting of yesterday (March 10), rescue operations should never be undertaken unless they can be completely successful.
British authorities reportedly said they had no time to confer with the Italian government because of their belief that the hostage-takers were going to kill Messrs. McManus and Lamolinara, yet kidnappers always make threats that they're going to kill their captives, but rarely do, largely because killing their victims removes the only bargaining chip they possess.
In the end, with the British insisting that time was of the essence, and not engaging the Italians in the dialogue, both hostages were killed anyway. We will never know whether waiting a few more months might have resulted in a successful outcome for both kidnap victims.