Chris McManus, 28, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, and Franco Lamolinara have both died following an attempt by UK Special Forces and Nigerian military on Thursday.
Both engineers were abducted last May by an Islamist group in Sokoto. While David Cameron has claimed the men’s lives were in “imminent danger,” the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, told the Italian media “The behaviour of the British government, which did not inform or consult with Italy on the operation that it was planning, really is inexplicable.” Mr Napolitano is seeking a political and diplomatic explanation from Britain.
Reports allege that the kidnappers turned their guns on the two construction engineers before the joint British and Nigerian military operation even entered the compound. Following the operation Mr Cameron said: “The early indications are clear that both men were murdered by their captors”.
However, an unnamed Nigerian official from the state security service tells the story differently, suggesting the men died in the crossfire.
Italian Senator Lucio Malan told BBC Two’s Newsnight of Italy’s dissatisfaction. “It is quite uncommon that a country that is involved is not informed before. Apparently it was a very difficult situation and it might have been the best decision but it is still to be explained why the Italian authorities haven’t been informed”.
Dvaid Cameron’s repsonse: “A window of opportunity arose to try and secure their release. We also had reason to believe that their lives were under imminent and growing danger.”
Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman Richard Ottaway supports the Prime Minister telling the BBC: “I can understand the concerns and frustrations of Italian politicians but I think they’ve got to accept and recognise that these are very fast-moving, delicate operations and it’s not always possible to keep politicians briefed in advance of what goes on.”
The two men were seized by gunmen in the town of Birnin Kebbi on 12 May 2011. The Foreign Office advises against travel to some areas of Nigeria warning that there is the threat of kidnap and terrorism.
It’s game on at Twickenham in two weeks time when England and France, the only sides still able to claim a Grand Slam, clash in what has the potential to be a Six Nations title decider.
England disposed of a sorry Italy at the weekend 59-13, just a week after putting Wales to the sword in Cardiff. Rugby League convert Chris Aston was England’s star man, claiming four of his side’s eight tries and in the process becoming the first English man to score four tries in a Six Nations game.
Reigning champions France came through a much tougher in test in the battle of the last two Grand Slam winners, when they took on Ireland in Dublin in the first Championship game to take place at the new Aviva Stadium. Despite being out-scored by three tries to one, Irish indiscipline gifted the French some easy points and last gasp defence at the death was enough to see the champions home 25-22.
Wales made the journey north to Edinburgh to take on Scotland at Murrayfield and it proved to be a satisfactory trip. A first half try by winger Shane Williams set the Welsh on their way, although they did have to defend with only 13 men for ten minutes when indiscipline saw both full-back Lee Byrne and second-row Bradley Davies sin-binned.
The Scots could not take advantage however, and created nothing in a performance that has set alarm bells ringing north of the border that a return to the bad old days of recent years in nigh. The second half was a scrappy affair with both sides bereft of both imagination and direction. In the end the game was settled by a neat grubber kick by Wales centre Jonathan Thomas which Williams was again alert to, collecting to score his second try.
But there was to be no heroic Scottish comeback as they limped to a 24-6 defeat.
Amanda Knox is starting an appeal against her conviction of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher. Knox’s lawyers argue that there are various gaps in the prosecution’s argument and are seeking a full review of the original DNA evidence.
Last year an Italian court found Knox guilty for the murder and sexual assault of her flatmate and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Knox’s lawyers claim that the DNA gathered for the original trial was questionable and that the murder weapon remains missing. Their main argument is that there was no motive for Knox to kill her friend.
Her legal team stated: “The motive, the fundamental aspect of the factual existence of the serious criminal acts, is largely absent in the assessment of evidence and more erroneously absent in the written ruling.”
Her lawyers also blame an “obscene media campaign” for skewing the opinion of the jury and the general public before the trial had begun. Knox was famously dubbed by the media as “Foxy Knoxy”.
The prosecution accused Knox of killing Kercher in a drug-fueled sex game that went wrong. Knox’s former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede, an immigrant from the Ivory Coast had allegedly held Kercher down whilst Knox slit her throat. Knox’s prosecutors told the court that she had tried to a fake a break in so that the murder would look like a random sexual assault.
Arriving at the hearing, her stepfather Chris Mellas told reporters: “She’s hopeful for a good appeal, I think she feels and certainly the lawyers feel that we have a very strong case for her being innocent, which, you know, is the case.”
Today’s administrative hearing lasted only a few minutes and took place in the Perugia courtroom were the first trial took place.
Today is the official launch of the Centre for Nano Safety at Edinburgh’s Napier University. Scientists in Scotland are presenting their work on a way to use laboratory-grown cells as a future replacement for animal testing. The study is called InLiveTox and is a collaboration between the Scottish team and teams in Italy and Switzerland.
The emphasis of the study lies is to further investigate the effects of nanoparticles. Cells that are being created in the laboratory are extremely tiny substances that are thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a hair. Such substances are increasingly being used in drugs, electronics, tennis rackets, paint, car polish and sun screen.
Professor Vicki Stone leads the unit at Edinburgh’s Napier University. Stone explains that their role is to determine the baseline toxicity of certain particles in each cell type both individually and then in combination. If the project continues to succeed, it could mean that we have a very valuable substitute which could lead to a alternative to the use of animals in future tests.
“It’s all very new, but if we have high hopes on the InLiveTox mainly when it comes to replacing animal testing on dietary products, cosmetics and medicine. The success of such a project could be a huge step for mankind”, says Stone.
Stone’s teams goal is to generate systems of different cells working together before they are combined for further tests by European laboratories.
The RBS Six Nations tournament kicks off this weekend and is set to be one of the most exciting since ever.
Rugby at this time off year captures the imaginations of millions, whether they are fans of the sport or not. Although the Tri Nations has a higher quality of player, rugby clubs throughout Western Europe will be full and the beer will be flowing. And this could be the closest championship since Italy’s inclusion back in 2000, with Europe’s elite six expecting to thrill fans across Europe.
But how will each team fare? Will Wales defend their crown and continue to sing in the Valleys, or will the Irish eyes be shinning? And what for Scotland? Can they get that elusive victory at Twickenham? Either way many of the home nation players will be looking to boost their chances of being picked for the Lions tour to South Africa this summer.
Here is a run down of each team, plus a few players to watch out for. Let the games begin…
Martin Johnson will be looking to improve on England’s Autumn International performance in his first Six Nations as coach, starting with dropping Danny Cipriani in favour of Andy Goode. Johnson will be going back to basics by playing a tactical and territorial game. Once their fall back tactic, this looks to be their new plan A.
He is still to shore up the midfield after Will Greenwood’s departure and the current pairing of Ricki Flutey and Mike Tindall have yet to find their feet at international level.
Anything less than three home wins will be seen as a failure for England.
Danny Care: This is a tough one as there are no real superstars in the team. The scrum half had a good 2008 and England will need him to be on top form to have a successful Six Nations.
My Prediction – Fourth
They face a tough opening match at Croke Park, which could determine how their campaign will be fought. They have picked a more conservative squad than in recent years. With Shabal in the second row they add a lot of muscle and aggression, but weaken their lineout as a result.
Poitrenaud sums up the French team. Brilliant one day, disastrous the next. Coach Marc Lievremont will be seeking consistent performances from his squad. They will miss the mercurial talents of Freddy Michelak and the team will have to step up if there is going to be a new generation of French flair.
Yannick Jauzion: A deadly mix of pace, balance and precision passing. He could be not only a match winner but a Grand Slam winner.
My Prediction – Third
Inconsistency has been the main theme for the Irish in recent years. Coach Declan Kidney will have to rectify this in 2009. There are a few promising young players coming through including Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald and these will add impetus to ageing stars like Brian O’Driscoll. The centre is no longer the devastating attacking force he once was, but is still strong in defence.
The front five remain strong and in David Wallace they have one of the best back rows in the tournament. They have a decent fixture list with England and France at home. Wales at the Millennium Stadium may prove to be a game too far for their Grand Slam hopes.
Ronan O’Gara: Some say the stand off dominates games, others say he fails to inspire. He needs to take the ball up to the game line and throw those defence splitting passes we all know he is capable off.
My Prediction – Second
As in any year the Italians aspire to just the one win. This year they could struggle to achieve this as they have no recognised half backs. There have been several stop gaps with centre, Paz, asking coach Mallet to stop playing him out of position.
Italy do have some genuine world class players in Prop, Castrogiovanni, Sergio Parisse and Bortolami.
They may surprise Ireland in Rome, but apart from that Murrayfield may prove yet again to be their only hope of avoiding that dreaded wooden spoon.
Sergio Parisse: One of the best players in the tournament. If he hailed from New Zealand he would be a household name. He is a top performer for club side Stade Francais and is easily the Italian’s best player.
My Prediction – Sixth
Scotland will be looking to improve on last year’s performance on one win, albeit against England. Scotland has still to field a backline capable of worrying an international defence since the turn of the century. However there is a degree of optimism this season with Tom Evans emerging as a genuine try scorer. There is also a new pace and creativity in the centre.
These players are untested at the highest level so it could go either way. There is still debate about the number ten jersey – Godman’s flair versus Park’s boot and reliability, but Godman could galvanise the exciting backline if he is in the starting lineup.
A key to Scotland’s success will be the powerful forward pack – a match for any team – and contains some genuine world-class players. They will have to create quick ball to allow the backline to function. Maybe then Scotland can start crossing the try line.
Mike Blair: The IRB world player of the year nominee can make Scotland tick. His roaming runs and crisp delivery must free up the midfield runners and build on the quick ball if Scotland are to start chalking the teams off their list. The captain needs a big tournament to boost his Lions credentials and his nation’s chances.
My Prediction – Fifth
Without a doubt the most talented team in the competition. They were the only northern hemisphere team to beat one of the big three in the autumn, pushing South Africa close and beating Australia.
Shane Williams is back from injury which will be a massive boost for Coach Warren Gatland. Roberts and Henson will provide a good mix of muscle and skill in the midfield and both James Hook and Steven Jones are capable match winners.
Pivotal to their success is the back row trio – Martin Williams, Andy Powell and Ryan Jones all complement each other and the rest of the Welsh side.
They could sneak the Championship on points difference, but watch out for a hiccup at Murrayfield this Saturday.
Ryan Jones: The defensive lynchpin, ball carrier and inspirational leader. He’s also tipped to lead the Lions this summer. His performance last year was awesome and the same will be required again.