Libya Channel with wires
Officials in Libya’s rival government – based in Tripoli – said that the bodies of two Italian constructions workers killed in Sabratha during clashes with the Islamic State are being flown back to Italy.
Salvatore Failla and Fausto Piano – employees of Italian construction company Bonatti – were shot dead by IS militants shortly before Libyan forces attacked them, according to the Sabratha Field Operations Room.
Together with their two colleagues Gino Pollicardo and Filippo Calcagno, they were seized last July near Mellitah, an oil and gas complex owned by the Italian energy group Eni located between Sabratha and the Tunisian border.
Pollicardo and Calcagno made a lucky escape on Friday after using a nail to slowly loosen the lock from a hardwood door and were flown back to Italy on Sunday.
Late Wednesday the bodies of their colleagues Failla and Piano were transferred to Sabratha and then to Mitaga airport in Tripoli after an autopsy, officials in the capital said.
Despite the killing of its citizens Italy said Wednesday it would not be drawn into broad military action as such actions could lead to further chaos.
The Italian government is under pressure both at home and from its allies as it outlines its response to ongoing instability in Libya, across the Mediterranean Sea, with divided factions and an increasing presence of Islamic State fighters.
Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told the Senate that Italy would defend itself from “the real threat” posed by the Islamic State group, “with proportionate actions.”
Parliament has already given approval for military support in cases involving a terror threat to Italy’s security. But Gentiloni warned against “drum calls” for military intervention.
“Military action is not a solution,” he said. ”At times, it can aggravate the problem.”
Gentiloni noted that that Libya is six times larger than Italy with more than 200,000 armed soldiers and militias of various stripes.
“In any case, it is not through fighting terrorism that we can expect to achieve the stabilization of Libya,” he said. “To confuse legitimate defense with the stability of Libya doesn’t help. To the contrary, it can provoke dangerous spirals.”
Italy has also committed to join a coalition to provide support to a new unity government upon its request, which will require further approval by lawmakers.
Gentiloni told lawmakers that the kidnapping of construction workers underlined the “critical and dangerous nature of the Libya situation.”
Earlier this week Pollicardo and Calcagno, safely back home, described how they escaped.
“Let’s say, I worked a lot on that door. With a nail, I understood that you can do many things,” Filippo Calcagno told reporters outside his home in Piazza Armerina, Sicily. “Slowly, slowly, I weakened” part of the fixture.
Calcagno said that, at that point, he called Gino Pollicardo, who had remained with him after the other two Italians had been taken away some days earlier, for help kicking down the door. Calcagno said they were lucky to find a second door to the outside unlocked, and while they worried “another group would come out and take us,” they managed to get to the street and find police.
The four were abducted in July and held together until March 1, when their captors indicated a deal had been made for their release and the other two were taken away. They were given no clear explanation as to why they were split up, and Calcagno and Pollicardo only learned after returning to Italy on Sunday that the others had been killed.
Both Calcagno and Pollicardi — who spoke with reporters near his home in Liguria — said that they did not know the affiliation of their captors, both referring to them as “criminals.”
Calcagno said they were beaten during their captivity and that their kidnappers often withheld food, apparently when negotiations for their release were not going well. He said he was unaware if a ransom was paid.
Italian estimates put the number of Islamic State fighters in Libya at 5,000, they are geographically capable of striking at Libya’s oil-producing areas.