Release of Italian hostages follows deaths of two co-workers.
Two Italian construction workers who were kidnapped by Islamic State (IS) in Libya last July were reportedly freed on 4 March, following the deaths of their two Italian co-workers in a shoot-out between IS and local militia in western Libya two days before.
The two Italian hostages, Filippo Calcagno and Gino Pollicardo, are reported to be safe and in the hands of the local military council in Sabratha, pending their return home with Italian security agents, according to intelligence sources.
The Italian foreign ministry in Rome is investigating the liberation of the hostages who are said to be “well but pschologically devastated.”
The men's colleagues Salvatore Failla and Fausto Piano were killed late on 2 March in clashes between IS militants and local militia fighters near the Libyan city of Sabratha, a coastal area between Tripoli and the Tunisian border.
The four, all employees of the Parma-based Bonatti oilfield construction firm, were kidnapped on 20 July in western Libya near a facility belonging to Mellitah Oil Gas Company, whose main partner is Italy's national energy firm ENI.
The liberation of two of the four hostages comes against the background of increasing political instability in Libya and continuing pressure on Italy from its allies for some form of direct military involvement in the country.
News of the killing of Failla and Piano came on the one-month anniversary of the death of Giulio Regeni, the Italian student whose mutilated body was found dumped outside the Egyptian capital Cairo on 3 February.
Italian authorities are growing increasingly impatient with the pace of Egypt's investigation into the death of Regeni, dismissing all Cairo's theories for his demise which, according to human rights organisations, bears the hallmarks of Egyptian secret services.
The death of the 28-year-old has attracted an angry response from Italians, cooling the normally close diplomatic and economic relations between Italy and Egypt.
Pressure from Italy increased on 1 March when ENI, which has significant business interests in Egypt, expressed confidence that Egyptian authorities are making a “maximum effort to try to find answers” to Regeni’s murder.