Downing Street defends lack of communication with Italy ahead of Nigeria rescue bid

DOWNING Street has defended its failure to inform Italy ahead of a hostage rescue operation in Nigeria which ended with the deaths of Briton Chris McManus and Italian co-worker Franco Lamolinara.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said today that the UK’s failure to tell Rome was “inexplicable” and demanded a political and diplomatic explanation.

The UK’s ambassador in Rome is understood to be in contact with Italian authorities, but Downing Street said it had so far received no official complaint from the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti.

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The two construction workers died yesterday as Nigerian troops and UK Special Boat Service (SBS) commandos launched a rescue mission to end their nine months in captivity in the West African country.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman told reporters today that Britain and Italy had been in contact ever since the men were first kidnapped last May, and that the Government’s Cobra emergency committee had met around 20 times to discuss the case.

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

“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.”