Kidnapped Italians due in Rome after Libya rescue

Two Italian construction workers kidnapped in Libya last month have been released, Italy said on Friday, with Foreign Minister Emma Bonino thanking Italian officials operating in "a difficult environment".

Kidnapped Italians due in Rome after Libya rescue
The two men were kidnapped outside Derna, eastern Libya, on January 17th. Photo: joepyrek/Flickr

"I feel great joy and satisfaction over the release of Francesco Scalise and Luciano Gallo," Bonino said in a statement that gave no details on the release but said it was thanks to "joint activities" by Italy and Libya.

"A heartfelt thank you to the women and men of the foreign ministry and other institutions who have facilitated a favourable outcome to this affair in a difficult environment," she said.

The two, who are expected to return to Rome later on Friday, were in Libya working on a road building project in the city of Derna for the contractor General World and had only been in Libya for a few months.

They were seized from their van by armed men on January 17th outside Derna in eastern Libya, reports said.

Since the fall of Moamer Kadhafi's regime in 2011, the government has struggled to restore order and security in a country ravaged by anarchy and deadly violence.

The situation is particularly critical in eastern Libya, particularly Derna and Benghazi, which have become bastions for Islamist radicals.

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Libya conference to be held in Sicily in November: Italy

A Libya conference will be held in Sicily in November, Italy's foreign minister said Tuesday, with talks focusing on an "inclusive approach" to stabilising the war-torn north African country while not fixating on a date for elections.

Libya conference to be held in Sicily in November: Italy
The coastline of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The peace conference in Palermo on November 12 and 13 will aim to “identify the stages of a stabilisation process”, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi told the Senate.

The meeting would drive towards “a common solution, even if there are differences of opinion between the parties involved”, he said.

Four key leaders from Libya agreed at a conference in Paris in May to hold landmark polls on December 10 as part of a French-led plan to stabilise the crisis-hit country despite ongoing violence and deep divisions.

France, however, has faced opposition to the election timetable from the United States along with other European Union countries, notably Italy.

Milanesi said he had received “confirmation of interest” in the conference from Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar as well as support from the US, and was planning on discussing the dossier with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday.

“No deadlines will be imposed on the Libyans, nor tasks dictated,” Milanesi said.

Italy, a key supporter of the UN-backed government of Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli, said in September it wants to “maintain an active dialogue” with all well-intentioned actors in Libya.

The Libyan capital has been at the centre of a battle for influence between armed groups since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was driven from power and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.

Sarraj's Government of National Accord has been unable to form a functioning army or regular security forces and has been forced to rely on militias to keep Tripoli safe.

Militias formed the backbone of the uprising that toppled Kadhafi.

Since then rival administrations, including one allied with Haftar and based in the remote east, and the militias have competed for authority and oil wealth in the North African country.

Accused by his opponents of wanting to establish a new military dictatorship, Haftar refuses to recognise the authority of Sarraj's Tripoli-based GNA.