A pair of Italians has been released after eight months in captivity shortly after two compatriots were killed. Italian prosecutors are investigating the circumstances surrounding their abduction.
Two Italian hostages in Libya were freed Friday during a raid on their captor's hideout about 45 miles west of the historical capital of Tripoli.
"Two Italian hostages were released... in Sabratha after an operation targeting several houses after information reached security forces that Daesh elements were there," the city's mayor, Hussein al-Dawadi, said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
"They are now at a police station in Sabratha," he added.
The released hostages, Gino Pollicardo, 55, and Filippo Calcagno, 65, said in a statement: "We are free and are relatively well physically but are psychologically exhausted. We urgently need to return to Italy."
Pollicardo's tearful wife told Italian media: "It's over, I spoke to him on the phone."
Two die in ambush
Their freedom comes less than 48 hours after two of their fellow captives were killed in an apparent firefight. Fausto Piano and Salvatore Failla were reportedly riding in a pair of IS cars in the desert some 20 miles south of Sabratha when they were ambushed by a local militia.
All nine occupants of the two cars were killed, and the two captives were said to be found with weapons in their hands.
Italian media reported the attack was carried out by Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn), the armed wing of the government in Tripoli, which is not internationally recognized.
Esam Krair, the head of the so-called "Sabratha Media Center" said, "We will contact the Italian authorities and hope they recover the bodies for investigation."
The four Italian hostages were all working for the Bonatti construction company in Libya when they were kidnapped last July, apparently for ransom.
The Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" reported that a partial ransom had been paid to the captors prior to the two hostages being killed, but this could be immediately confirmed.
It is unclear why the hostages was separated from the other. Prosecutors in Rome are investigating the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping in the former Italian colony.
Libya collapsed into chaos in 2011 after Western powers provided air support to a popular uprising against dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But no single governing entity has been able to assert control over the entire country.
Militants control Tripoli while the internationally recognized government has set up its governing center in the far east of the country.
The rival factions are being pressed to agree to a UN-brokered deal that would implement a national unity government that would restore stability.
bik/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)