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Hostages shot dead in toilet during rescue bid, says guard's wife

The wife of one of the guards who held a Briton and an Italian hostage in Nigeria said yesterday the two men were taken into a toilet and shot dead during a failed attempt to rescue them by British and Nigerian forces.

The wife, who gave her name only as Hauwa and said she was 31, cried into her hands as she spoke.

Briton Chris McManus and Italian Franco Lamolinara were kidnapped last May while working for a construction company in northwest Nigeria. They were killed last Thursday by their captors after gunfire erupted during an rescue attempt.

Mr Lamolinara's body was returned to Rome yesterday and was received with full honours by the justice minister.

Hauwa said bullets flew into the room where she and her husband were staying, killing her husband.

"After that, there were about six men who came out of the house with the two hostages," she said. "They came into our wing of the compound, pushed the captives into the toilet and just shot them. I screamed."

She denied knowing the hostages had been living in the same compound as her. She said they were kept in the main house which she was strictly forbidden to enter.

Nigerian authorities have detained five Islamist militants suspected of involvement in the kidnapping. Two of the men were arrested before the rescue attempt and three at the compound where the raid took place.

"I don't know why they didn't arrest me, I didn't know anything about the hostages. The forces saw me crying next to my husband's body, which they took away," she said.

She said she had lived in the house for four months after her husband got a job there as a guard. But she said she never suspected anything was wrong.

A diplomatic row broke out between London and Rome on Friday over Britain's failure to inform the Italian government before launching the botched rescue mission.

Italian media yesterday criticised Britain for viewing Italy as an unreliable second-class ally over London's failure to consult Rome before launching the rescue mission.

Politicians stepped up demands that Britain provide a precise explanation of exactly what happened. "This is a murky episode that absolutely must be cleared up," said Massimo D'Alema, a former prime minister.

"The reconstruction by the English is not convincing. The Italian government should have been notified in time and not after the fact," he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the hostages were killed by their captors during a rescue mission involving Nigerian and British special forces. His government confirmed the Italians had not been informed until after the operation began.

Editorials in leading Italian newspapers suggested London feared Rome would have delayed or objected to the operation.

"It is not difficult to imagine that London, with a touch of arrogance, took into consideration our track record for resolving a lot of kidnappings by paying money, an approach the English do not appreciate," the leading Corriere della Sera said.

A senior source at the Nigerian State Security Services said the five suspects detained had been transferred to a facility in the capital Abuja for questioning.

Authorities suspect a splinter group of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist organisation, was behind the kidnapping.

A purported spokesman for Boko Haram's main faction denied any part in the kidnapping.

Sunday Independent