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Jonathan: Nigeria takes share of blame for failed hostage rescue

From Nkepile Mabuse, CNN
March 15, 2012 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Goodluck Jonathan says Nigeria worked with British and other intelligence agencies
  • "We all take responsibility" for the failure to rescue the hostages alive, he says
  • Italy has questioned why it was not informed in advance about the rescue bid
  • Abductors seized Italian Franco Lamolinara and Briton Chris McManus in Nigeria last May

Abuja, Nigeria (CNN) -- Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Thursday he takes some of the responsibility for a failed hostage rescue attempt in which an Italian and a British man died.

Kidnappers killed Franco Lamolinara and Chris McManus last week while a raid to free them was under way, according to British government sources briefed on the matter.

The case drew criticism from top Italian officials, who questioned why Rome was not consulted before the operation, which was launched by Nigerian forces with support from Britain.

In an interview with CNN Thursday, Jonathan said Nigerian authorities had worked with the British and other international intelligence agencies, but did not specify who the other nations were.

Jonathan said his country took its share of the blame for the operation's failure.

"We worked with the international intelligence system. If there was success, there would have been a collective glory. Since we did not quite succeed, well, we all take responsibility," he said.

"So I cannot say I will not take part of that responsibility: yes, I do. I'm the president of the country."

Britain said it had not been possible to inform Italy of the operation until it was under way because of the fast moving situation on the ground and the "imminent and growing danger" to the hostages' lives.

Jonathan said the raid was launched after conversations between the captors were intercepted.

The hostages had been moved several times and there were fears they would be taken out of Nigeria, he said.

The escape of one of the alleged kidnappers during an arrest the day before the failed rescue attempt also raised fears McManus and Lamolinara would be killed, the president said.

Jonathan said he was not aware of any demand for a ransom, or of any ransom payment having been made.

"In this particular case, no family member informed security agencies that they (the captors) had reached out to them for ransom," he told CNN.

An autopsy conducted on Lamolinara's body on its return to Rome revealed he had been shot four times, according to Italian media reports.

The 47-year-old engineer was abducted with co-worker McManus in northwestern Nigeria in May 2011.

Jonathan said last week that the men were killed before the joint forces could reach their kidnappers' hideout in the northern state of Sokoto.

He blamed the kidnapping and killings on Boko Haram, the militant Islamist terror group responsible for dozens of attacks in Nigeria in the past two years.

But a statement posted on a pro-jihad forum on which the militant group has been active in recent months denied any link.

On Wednesday, the Nigerian secret service announced that the alleged mastermind behind the kidnapping had died after having been shot during his arrest.

Several other alleged Boko Haram members were paraded in front of journalists with bruises and bandages on their faces.

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