Tensions between Italy and Britain over failed hostage rescue attempt

Success has many fathers, but failure?

Yesterday's failed attempt by British Special Forces to rescue a pair of British and Italian men held hostage by Nigeria's Islamist Boko Haram for the last nine months has led to diplomatic repercussions.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has expressed genuine anger at not being informed about the raid in advance. "The way the British government has behaved is quite inexplicable. To have failed to inform or consult Italy, with regard to a military action which could have such consequences," Napolitano said.

The Milan daily, Corriere delle Serra, said, Italy had been humiliated.

Alan Johnston of the BBC, who was himself held hostage in Gaza, reports from Rome that the fact that the Italian government was not informed in advance is having a negative effect on its public approval. The current government is made up of unelected technocrats, appointed primarily to help Italy deal with its economic problems. The event makes it seem as if they are not competent in international affairs.

The exact details of the raid yesterday have not been made public. Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara were working as engineers in north-west Nigeria when they were taken hostage last May.

The British government claims the decision to take action came after intelligence was received that the pair were about to be moved and "possibly executed."

British special forces and Nigerian soldiers took part in the action.

An interesting view of the situation in Nigeria comes from Rob Crilly, currently reporting from Pakistan but who spent five years covering Africa. He writes, Nigeria is capable of turning into the African version Pakistan.

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