By Libya Herald reporter.
Tripoli, 3 March 2016:
Two Italians kidnapped last July are believed to have been killed while being used as . . .[restrict]human shields by gunmen from the so-called Islamic State (IS) during a shoot-out near Sorman, west of Tripoli.
The Italian Foreign Ministry has said that it has launched an investigation as a result of pictures that it has seen showing two bodies. From the images, it said, “it could be possible to identify two of the four Italians who worked for the Bonatti construction company and who were kidnapped in July 2015. More specifically, the images could be of Fausto Piano and Salvatore Failla.”
It was difficult, however, to confirm the deaths in the absence of the bodies, the ministry added.
The photos were sent by Sabratha military council who say that the two are definately Italians but do not know their identities.
Piano and Failla were kidnapped along with Filippo Calcagno and Gino Pollicardo not far from the Mellitah Oil and Gas complex, 100 kilomtres west of Tripoli, while heading back from Tunisia and were believed to be being held by militants in Sabratha. At the time of their seizure, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni was reported saying that the four could have been taken in retaliation for Italy’s support for UN-brokered Dialogue process. It has been suggested since that they were seized for ransom and that negotiations were taking place to secure their release.
Other reports, however, indicate that the four were held by IS sympathisers from the beginning.
It is not known what has happened to the other two Italians. There are suggestions in Sabratha that they were taken elsewhere by Abdullah Dabbashi, the IS commander in the town.
IS, which had at least three bases in Sabratha including training grounds, weapons stores and transit facilities, has been is disarray following last month’s US air strikes. After months of pretending IS was not there, local militias turned on them resulting in fierce clashes around the town and in some of the farms south of it where IS and its supporters were hiding out.
The mayor of Sabratha is reported saying that the two were among 12 people killed when security forces raided a IS hideout last night.
Yesterday, a number of IS fighters believed to left Sabratha were killed in a shootout in the Tunisian border town of Ben Guerdane. [/restrict]