Italy seeks info from US in drone strike hostage death

AP News
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Posted: Apr 24, 2015 3:16 PM

ROME (AP) — Italy said Friday it wanted more information from the United States about how an Italian aid worker was killed in a U.S. drone strike on the Afghan-Pakistan border as officials sought to explain why it took three months to be told about the "tragic error."

Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told Parliament in a hastily scheduled briefing that in an inaccessible war zone, where hostage-taking is frequent, it took that long for U.S. intelligence to verify Giovanni Lo Porto had been killed.

President Barack Obama on Thursday announced the death of Lo Porto and an American hostage during a mid-January airstrike on a suspected al-Qaida target.

On Friday, Lo Porto's father, Vito Lo Porto, said he wanted his son's remains returned.

"I badly want the body of my son back. I want to cry on his body. I cannot do anything else," he told Sky TG24 in the family's first public comment. "Now they give us condolences, excuses. It's not nice, it's not nice."

Gentiloni said Obama phoned Italian Premier Matteo Renzi late Wednesday night with the confirmation of Lo Porto's death, and that his family was informed the following morning.

Just last week, Obama and Renzi met in Washington; the White House spokesman said Friday he didn't know if Obama and Renzi discussed the case then. Renzi has said he only learned about it on Wednesday.

Gentiloni said Italy took note of Obama's "maximum transparency" in assuming responsibility for the deaths but that Italy wanted more information about what happened.

"We want to assure that Italy will find the way to honor the memory of Giovanni," Gentiloni said. "And we will work to acquire the maximum additional information possible on the circumstances of the tragic error recognized yesterday by President Obama."

He stressed, though, that Italy would continue to work with its allies in the fight against terrorism.

Late Thursday, Renzi also sought to defray any criticism of Washington's handling of the release of information, saying there was no need for polemics.