Friends of Italian hostage killed by US drone strike plead for return of his body

Friends of Giovanni Lo Porto, in January that targeted an al-Qaida compound, are pleading for his remains to be returned to Italy and demanding information about his death.

A demonstration in Lo Porto’s hometown of Palermo has been planned for Thursday evening. The mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, has called for a formal inquiry into the circumstances of Lo Porto’s death and said this week that he would write a letter to the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, urging him to find Lo Porto’s body and return it to his family.

Barack Obama, the US president, admitted last week that Lo Porto and another innocent hostage – an American named Warren Weinstein who was a government aid worker – were that took place in January in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The decision to establish an investigative commission might be one way to restore the central role of parliament and confirm our condemnation of what occurred, as well as showing solidarity to the family, and ascertaining a truth that must be known by the country,” Orlando said in a statement.

Friends of Lo Porto – who they knew as Giancarlo – have expressed their demands for the return of his body on a Facebook page that was created for the aid worker in March 2012, when he was kidnapped while working for a German aid group in .

“Excuses are not good enough,” says one message, according to Corriere della Sera, the Italian daily. “We cannot allow there to be silence surrounding the tragic death of Giancarlo, and even worse, for his family and friends to be deprived of the right to place a flower on his grave.”

Fabrice Calabrese, a friend who met Lo Porto in 2005 when both were living in London, told the Guardian that the event, A Flower for Giovanni, was organised as way to remember a person who was devoted to helping people.

“We won’t forget him, and we hope that this will help remember him and spread his ideas of peace and tolerance. We are gathering in the street now, but all we want is a proper place and a grave to remember our Giovanni,” Calabrese said.

Political reaction in has been muted following news of the drone strikes. Opponents of Renzi initially criticised him for apparently not being informed about the killing until a day before the news was released by the White House, even though he had met Obama in Washington a week earlier. But the initial controversy has since died down as attention in Rome is currently centred on a government reform bill making its way through parliament.

The deaths of Lo Porto and Weinstein marked the first known instance in which a US drone strike has inadvertently killed hostages, forcing the Obama administration to disclose unprecedented amount of information about a classified operation.

The Italian foreign ministry did not return a request for comment. Last week, it said the ultimate blame for Lo Porto’s death lay with the terrorists who were holding him captive.

Source : theguardian[dot]com
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