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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Three hostages released in Libya after seven weeks in captivity

Published 05/11/2016 | 08:31

The three men were taken hostage in Libya
The three men were taken hostage in Libya

Two Italians and a Canadian citizen who were kidnapped in southern Libya have been freed unharmed.

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Italian authorities said the intelligence services of Libya, Italy and Canada cooperated in securing the release of the three men after nearly seven weeks in captivity. They have been returned to Italy.

The men, technicians working on a construction project at an airport, were seized on September 19 by armed, masked men who blocked their vehicle in Ghat, a Sahara Desert city in south-western Libya near the border with Algeria.

A number of criminal and extremist groups operate in the area, but it was not immediately clear which group was involved or what their motive was.

There was also no information if any ransom was involved in the men's release.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said: "Today is a moment of relief and joy that I would like to share with the families of our technicians."

He also thanked Libyan authorities and their security forces.

Italy identified the Italians as Danilo Calonego and Bruno Cacace, and the Canadian citizen as Frank Poccia.

Foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni said the two Italians had not been mistreated during their captivity and were in good health.

He did not comment on Mr Poccia's situation but said Canadian authorities were also involved in securing the men's release.

Authorities said they were freed overnight and brought to Rome on a special flight.

The Italians were reportedly employed by an Italian construction company. It was not immediately clear whether Mr Poccia worked for the same company.

Italian prosecutors are questioning the three men in an attempt to gain more information about possible terrorist involvement in the case.

Their relatives told Italian media of their huge relief at the news as they waited to be reunited.

Maria Margherita Forneris, Mr Cacace's mother, said: "I lived through hellish days, but now it's all over."

Libya was once an Italian colony and Italy continues to have a strong commercial presence in the North African nation.

It has fallen into chaos since former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 and killed by Libyan rebels.

AP

Press Association

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