Two Italians and a Canadian citizen kidnapped in southern Libya in September were freed unharmed and brought to Italy early Saturday, authorities said.
Italian authorities said the intelligence services of Libya, Italy and Canada cooperated in securing the release of the three men after nearly seven weeks of captivity. The men, technicians working on a construction project at an airport, were seized Sept. 19 by armed, masked men who blocked their vehicle in Ghat, a Sahara Desert city in southwestern Libya near the border with Algeria.
A number of criminal and extremist groups operate in the area, but it wasn’t immediately clear which group was involved or what their motive was. There was also no information if any ransom was involved in the men’s release.
“Today is a moment of relief and joy that I would like to share with the families of our technicians,” Italian Premier Matteo Renzi said, expressing special thanks to Libyan authorities and their security forces.
Italy identified the Italians as Danilo Calonego and Bruno Cacace and the Canadian citizen as Frank Poccia. Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the two Italians had not been mistreated during their captivity and were in good health. He did not comment on Poccia’s situation but said Canadian authorities were also involved in securing the men’s release.
Authorities said they were freed overnight and brought to Rome on a special flight early Saturday.
The ANSA news agency said the Italians were employed by an Italian construction company. It was not immediately clear whether Poccia worked for the same company.
Italian prosecutors were questioning the three men Saturday in an attempt to gain more information about possible terrorist involvement in the case. Their relatives, waiting to be reunited, told Italian media of their huge relief at the news.
“I lived through hellish days but now it’s all over,” Maria Margherita Forneris, Cacace’s mother, said, according to ANSA.
Libya was once an Italian colony and Italy continues to have a strong commercial presence in the North African nation. Libya has fallen into chaos since former dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled in 2011 and killed by Libyan rebels.