Monday 21 May 2018

Italy seeks US info on drone death

President Barack Obama yesterday announced the death of Giovanni Lo Porto. (AP)
President Barack Obama yesterday announced the death of Giovanni Lo Porto. (AP)

Italy is requesting more information from the US about how an Italian aid worker was killed in a drone strike on the Afghan-Pakistan border, as officials sought to explain why it took three months to be told about the "tragic error".

Foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni told parliament in a hastily scheduled briefing that in an inaccessible war zone, where hostage-taking is frequent, it took that long for US intelligence to verify Giovanni Lo Porto had been killed.

President Barack Obama yesterday announced the death of Mr Lo Porto and a US hostage during a mid-January air strike on a suspected al Qaida target.

"The US government confirmed that there was no reason to believe that the two hostages were in the compound," Mr Gentiloni said.

He added that Mr Obama phoned Italian premier Matteo Renzi late on Wednesday night with the confirmation, and that Mr Lo Porto's family was informed the following morning.

He said Italy took note of Mr Obama's "maximum transparency" in assuming responsibility for the deaths but that Italy wanted more information about what happened. Just last week, Mr Obama and Mr Renzi met in Washington.

"We want to assure that Italy will find the way to honour the memory of Giovanni," Mr Gentiloni said. "And we will work to acquire the maximum additional information possible on the circumstances of the tragic error recognised yesterday by President Obama."

He stressed, though, that Italy would continue to work with its allies in the fight against terrorism.

Mr Obama said: "It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur."

Pakistan's foreign ministry issued a statement of condolences to the hostages' families.

"Having lost thousands of innocent civilians in the war against terrorism, Pakistan can fully understand this tragic loss and stands with the families of Weinstein and Lo Porto in this difficult time," the ministry said.

"The death of Mr Weinstein and Mr Lo Porto in a drone strike demonstrates the risk and unintended consequences of the use of this technology that Pakistan has been highlighting for a long time."

Press Association

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