Two Italian workers and a Canadian freed after Libya kidnap

November 5, 2016 5:16 AM EDT

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MILAN/TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Two Italian workers and a Canadian kidnapped in Libya in September have been freed and were flown to Italy early on Saturday, Italian and Libyan officials said.

Danilo Calonego, Bruno Cacace and Frank Poccia were abducted on Sept. 19 in Ghat, southwestern Libya, near the site where they worked by an armed group that blocked the vehicle in which they were traveling, the Italian foreign ministry said.

The two Italians were technicians employed by construction group Conicos, it added.

"The three were released in the early hours of Saturday and were handed over to Italian authorities," said Hassan Ottman, a spokesman for the municipal council in the Libyan town of Ghat.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi thanked everyone who played a role in the men's release, especially the authorities and security forces in Libya.

"Today is a time of relief and joy that I would like to share with the families of our technicians," he said.

Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the men had not been subjected to any particular violence and were in good health. The men are being interviewed by authorities in Rome before they are expected to be reunited with their families.

The men told an investigator that the kidnappers were part of one single criminal group, were not jihadists and "drank alcohol and did not pray", Italian media reported.

All three men were working on airport projects in Libya's southwestern desert near the border with Algeria when kidnapped, Ghat's mayor said at the time.

Numerous criminal and armed groups are active in Libya's vast southern desert, and al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants have long had a presence across the border between Libya and Algeria.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak in Milan and Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli; Editing by Alexander Smith)



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