Two Italian hostages freed in Libya

First pair 'killed in firefight with ISIS'

(ANSA) - Rome, March 4 - Italy's two remaining hostages in Libya, Gino Pollicardo and Filippo Calcagno, have been freed, their families confirmed Friday.
    "It's over," said Gino Pollicardo Jr.
    Wife Ema Pollicardo said she went "mad with joy" upon hearing her husband's voice on the phone for the first time since his abduction 288 days ago.
    "Hearing Gino's voice was an incredible feeling," she said tearfully, adding that she also felt "infinite sadness" for his two colleagues and fellow hostages who were killed in unclear circumstances on Wednesday.
    Calcagno's son Gianluca told journalists outside their home in the Sicilian town of Piazza Armerina that his dad told his family "I'm well, don't worry, we're safe" after being picked up by Libyan police.
    The two employees of Parma-based Bonatti oil construction firm were abducted along with two other colleagues last July 20 near a facility of the Mellitah Oil & Gas Company, a partner of Italian energy giant ENI.
    They are in the hands of local police and will be moved to a secure zone where they will be picked up by Italian agents who will take them back to Italy, intelligence sources said. They were reportedly freed from a house in the city of Sabratha after they broke down the front door and local fighters came to their aid after being tipped off by neighbors. The area in the northwestern corner of Libya has seen fierce fighting between jihadists from the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) terror group and Sabratha's local forces. Sabratha military council chief Altaher Algrabli told ANSA Friday the two hostages were freed in a raid that caused nine fatalities, including two female suicide bombers.
    Meanwhile the slaying in Sabratha late Wednesday of the other two abducted Bonatti workers, Fausto Piano and Salvatore Failla, appears to have set the stage for an Italian military commitment in Libya. Unites States Ambassador to Rome John Pillips said Italy could deploy "up to 5,000" soldiers in the event of military intervention in the North African country.
    Sabratha municipal council head Hussein al-Zawadi said earlier in the day that Piano and Failla were killed in clashes between ISIS militants and troops loyal to Tripoli together with allied militia.
    Also on Friday, a lawyer for the Failla family said his clients want to know why their loved one was killed just 24 hours before his two fellow hostages were freed. "After so many silences, secrets and mysteries, the Failla family demands explanations," said lawyer Francesco Caroleo Grimaldi. He added the hostages' employer, the Bonatti company, must be held accountable "for lack of security for the four technicians, who had no protection". "It is a fact that the four had to travel from Tunis to the compound where they were supposed to work with no armed escort and no protection," Caroleo Grimaldi said. He also called "disturbing" unconfirmed reports that Failla and Piano had been shot execution-style in the back of the head.