Kidnapped Italians freed in Libya after six weeks

Two Italians and a Canadian who were kidnapped in the south of conflict-torn Libya in September have been released and flown to Italy "in good health", the Italian government announced Saturday.

Kidnapped Italians freed in Libya after six weeks
Ghat, where the men were captured, is a historic trading post in the Sahara. Photo: duimdog/Wikimedia Commons
The Italians, Danilo Calonego, 66, and Bruno Cacace, 56, and Canadian Frank Poccia were freed during the night “due to the effective cooperation with local Libyan authorities,” it said in a statement.
The three men were kidnapped on September 19 in Ghat, close to the Algerian border, where they worked for an Italian company that carried out maintenance at the airport. An armed group blocked their vehicle and took them hostage.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi praised Libyan security forces and expressed his “sincere gratitude for the solidarity” shown by several mayors in the south of Libya. Italy's foreign ministry said the three arrived in Italy at around 3am (0200 GMT).
In Rome, where prosecutors had opened an investigation into a suspected terrorist kidnapping, a magistrate debriefed the three men for seven hours, according to the Italian AGI news agency.
They said they had been well-treated and that their captors were most likely common criminals with no religious or terrorist affiliations, the agency reported.
Several Italian companies are present in Libya, a former colony, and their expatriate staff have often fallen prey to kidnappers in recent years.
In July 2015, four Italians working for a construction company were kidnapped near an oil field operated by Italian oil giant ENI in the region of Mellitah, west of Tripoli.
Two of the hostages were killed more than six months into their ordeal, likely in clashes between jihadists and local militiamen.    
The other two were freed in March this year, in a raid on Islamic State group hideouts near the capital. Chaos has engulfed Libya since the 2011 NATO-backed ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.


German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident

Thirteen people, including German tourists, have been killed after a cable car disconnected and fell near the summit of the Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident
The local emergency services published this photograph of the wreckage. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

The accident was announced by Italy’s national fire and rescue service, Vigili del Fuoco, at 13.50 on Sunday, with the agency saying over Twitter that a helicopter from the nearby town of Varese was on the scene. 

Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps confirmed that there were 13 victims and two seriously injured people.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that German tourists were among the 13 victims.

According to their report, there were 15 passengers inside the car — which can hold 35 people — at the time a cable snapped, sending it tumbling into the forest below. Two seriously injured children, aged nine and five, were airlifted to hospital in Turin. 

The cable car takes tourists and locals from Stresa, a resort town on Lake Maggiore up to a panoramic peak on the Mottarone mountain, reaching some 1,500m above sea level. 

According to the newspaper, the car had been on its way from the lake to the mountain when the accident happened, with rescue operations complicated by the remote forest location where the car landed. 

The cable car had reopened on April 24th after the end of the second lockdown, and had undergone extensive renovations and refurbishments in 2016, which involved the cable undergoing magnetic particle inspection (MPI) to search for any defects. 

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Twitter that he expressed his “condolences to the families of the victims, with special thoughts for the seriously injured children and their families”.

Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini told Italy’s Tg1 a commission of inquiry would be established, according to Corriere della Sera: “Our thoughts go out to those involved. The Ministry has initiated procedures to set up a commission and initiate checks on the controls carried out on the infrastructure.”

“Tomorrow morning I will be in Stresa on Lake Maggiore to meet the prefect and other authorities to decide what to do,” he said.