- NEW: The Italian foreign minister says he wants “maximum clarity” from Britain
- The UK ambassador speaks to Italians to “explain events”
- Italy says Britain’s failure to consult it before the rescue bid is “inexplicable”
- Abductors seized the men in northwestern Nigeria in May
Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — Britain’s failure to consult Rome before a rescue operation that left two European hostages dead in Nigeria is “inexplicable,” the Italian president said Friday.
Italy said Britain did not inform it before Thursday’s attempt, in conjunction with Nigerian forces, to rescue Briton Chris McManus and Italian national Franco Lamolinara, who were kidnapped last year.
“A clarification on the political-diplomatic level is also needed,” Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said.
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi asked his British counterpart, William Hague, on Friday afternoon for “maximum clarity” on the raid “in the shortest time possible, in the next few hours.”
Hostages killed during rescue attempt
The kidnappers killed the men while the raid to free them was under way, according to British government sources briefed on the matter.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said the men were killed before the joint forces could reach their hideout in the northern state of Sokoto.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron told Britain’s Press Association the government notified Rome as “the operation was getting under way,” describing it as a “very fast-moving” situation.
Still, the UK ambassador to Italy, Christopher Prentice, spoke to Italian authorities in Rome on Friday “on his own initiative to explain events,” the British Foreign Office said.
Nigerian forces, with support from Britain, launched the operation Thursday after receiving credible information about the captives’ location, Cameron said.
McManus and Lamolinara worked for the construction and civil engineering firm B. Stabilini and Co., which is based in Abuja. A message on the company’s website Friday read simply “In loving memory of Chris & Franco. RIP from all your friends at B. Stabilini & Co. Ltd.”
McManus, 28, was from northwest England, the British Foreign Office said. Lamolinara, 47, and married with two teenage children, hailed from the northern Italian town of Gattinara, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported.
Jonathan blamed the kidnapping and killings on Boko Haram, the militant Islamist terror group responsible for dozens of attacks in Nigeria in the past two years.
The circumstances behind the men’s deaths remained unclear, but Jonathan said authorities detained the alleged captors.
“Perpetrators of the murderous act, who have all been arrested, will be made to face the full wrath of the law,” the president said in a statement on the government website.
Cameron said he authorized the rescue attempt after working to free the two since they were kidnapped in May 2011. Authorities could not find the men for months, he said, but eventually got credible information about their location, and “a window of opportunity” presented itself.
“The terrorists holding the two hostages made very clear threats to take their lives, including in a video that was posted on the Internet,” Cameron said.
“Boko Haram” translates from the local Hausa language as “Western education is forbidden.” Authorities have said the militant group is behind escalated gun and bomb attacks that have killed scores in recent years.
CNN’s Claudia Rebaza, Nkepile Mabuse, Nima Elbagir, and Alex Felton contributed to this report.