Italian military intervention in Iraq (10/2004), soldiers garrison a checkpoint on the freeway near the Nassiriya town. Archive photo.
Rome—The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday that two Italian nationals had been kidnapped on the road leading to the city of Ghat’s airport in southwest Libya.
“The ministry has been informed of the situation and has been following up on developments from the moment it learnt of the case,” as quoted by the AFP.
“We are working with the maximum caution, bearing in mind how delicate the situation is.”
Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti told the Italian Parliament on 13 September that his government was ready to immediately deploy some 300 soldiers and staff to Libya along with a military hospital.
The troops will be stationed in the city of Misurata, 200 kms east of Tripoli.
Pinotti also said that A C-27 transport plane will be stationed at the military hospital in case the need arises for an emergency evacuation and an Italian warship will be anchored off the Libyan coast for security back-up.
The abducted two men were allegedly working at Ghat airport.
According to ABC NEWS, a statement by the media office of Ghat municipality said that foreign engineers, who worked for construction company CON.I.COS, were abducted by unidentified assailants on the road linking Tahala and Ghat early in the morning.
It gave their names as Italians Bruno Cacace and Danilo Calonego, and a Canadian identified only as Frank.
By announcing it will be sending troops to Libya, Italy is entering an uncharted territory that could turn out to be a disastrous foreign policy gamble. Libyans have already voiced their rejection of any foreign military intervention in their country.
Libya has just commemorated the 84th anniversary of the hanging of its national Omar Al Mukhtar by the Italian colonial forces on 16 September 1931.
The statement quoted the head of the Ghat Municipal Council Koumani Mohammed Saleh as saying that al-Qaida is not behind the abduction.
"The abduction of the engineers was carried out by a small outlawed group," he was quoted as saying.
He also said that officials are working on securing their release. The incident, the statement said, is "unprecedented" in Ghat.
Global Affairs Canada spokesman Michael O'Shaughnessy said that "We are aware of the troubling yet unconfirmed report of the abduction of a Canadian citizen in Libya. We are diligently pursuing all appropriate channels," said ABC NEWS.