An autopsy on the body of the Italian hostage killed in Nigeria during an unsuccessful British-Nigerian rescue mission has found that he was shot at close range in the head.
The autopsy, conducted in Rome hours after the body was flown to Italy on Saturday, found that Franco Lamolinara was shot four times at close range, including a fatal shot in the head. Lamolinara and his British colleague Chris McManus were found dead on Thursday. British officials have said there are indications their captors killed them.
Lamolinara's body arrived at Rome's Ciampino military airport, where officers stood to attention in a sign of respect before a hearse took the body to a hospital morgue for an autopsy. He and McManus died in the Mabera neighbourhood of the city of Sokoto. They are likely to have been shot hastily by their captors as Britain's elite Special Boat Service and Nigerian authorities attempted to rescue them.
Lamolinara was shot "at a close distance, but not at the range you'd call execution-style", Dr Paolo Arbarello, who led the postmortem, told reporters outside of the Sapienza university's Institute of Forensic Medicine.
Italian news agency Ansa said some traces of bullets were found on Lamolinara's body. Analyses of the bullets could further clarify who fired them, his captors or rescuers that hit him. An autopsy of McManus's body is also planned.
Three suspected kidnappers died in the military operation, residents said. Nigerian authorities arrested three others at the house and they are likely to still be held by security forces.
The commando raid has strained Britain's relations with Italy. The Italian president has complained about the "inexplicable" failure to consult with his government before launching the failed rescue. The foreign secretary, William Hague, has defended Britain's decision, saying there was no time to confer and that Italy was informed only once the rescue mission was already under way.
Following an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Copenhagen, the Italian foreign minister, Giulio Terzi, told journalists Hague assured him that his government would give Rome a "detailed explanation" and account of what happened in Nigeria.
McManus was working for the construction company B Stabilini when he was kidnapped on 12 May by gunmen who stormed his apartment in the city of Birnin Kebbi, about 110 miles away from Sokoto. Lamolinara was also abducted. A German colleague managed to escape by scaling a wall, but a Nigerian engineer was shot and wounded.
A video later released showed the kidnappers claiming they belonged to al-Qaida and threatening to kill McManus and Lamolinara if their demands were not met. British officials worked for months trying to track down the men as rumours floated that they had been taken out of the country.
Britain's Foreign Office has said the two men were held by terrorists associated with Boko Haram, which is blamed for more than 300 killings this year alone. A senior British government official has said the kidnappers appeared to be from an al-Qaida-linked cell within Boko Haram, but not within the group's main faction.
A spokesman for Boko Haram denied his group's involvement on Friday. However, arrests of suspected sect members led authorities to the house the men were being held, a Nigerian official has said.
Those living around the house denied knowing the men who held the two hostages. A room in the compound had a cutout portion of the ceiling where the kidnappers apparently climbed through to sneak out of the home undetected. However, drugs and other material littering the ground suggested the two hostages had been held there, undetected, for some time.
Members of the Nigerian government remain hesitant to talk about the failed raid. Their reluctance to talk may come from simmering anger about the government allowing commandos from Britain, Nigeria's former colonial ruler, to launch an assault in the Muslim north. Reuben Abati, a spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan, declined to discuss the reasons why the government allowed British troops to carry out the attack.