2 kidnapped Italians, 1 Canadian freed in Libya

Two Italians and a Canadian citizen who were kidnapped in southern Libya by armed men in September were freed unharmed and brought to Italy in the early hours of Saturday, Italian authorities said.

Trio kidnapped in September in Sahara desert near border with Algeria

A Libyan army vehicle patrols on a desert road between Libya and Algeria. Libya's southwestern tip in the Sahara bordering Algeria and Niger is an area where the chaotic government in Tripoli appears to have abandoned all control. (Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)

Two Italians and a Canadian citizen who were kidnapped in southern Libya by armed men in September were freed unharmed and brought to Italy in the early hours of Saturday, Italian authorities said.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi expressed thanks to the Libyan authorities and security forces for their role in liberating the men, technicians who were involved in projects at an airport.

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

The ministry identified the Italians as Danilo Calonego and Bruno Cacace and the Canadian citizen of Italian origin, Frank Poccia.

"We are pleased and relieved to confirm the release of a Canadian citizen who had been held captive in Libya," Canada's Global Affairs department said in a statement.

Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the two Italians had not been mistreated during their captivity and were in good health. He did not comment on the state of the Canadian citizen.

Authorities said they were liberated during the night and brought to Italy on a special flight early on Saturday.

The men were kidnapped on Sept. 19 by armed and masked men who blocked their vehicle in Ghat, a city in southwestern Libya in the Sahara desert near the border with Algeria.

A number of criminal and extremist groups operate in the area, but it wasn't immediately clear which group was involved in this case or what the motive was.

ANSA news agency said they are all technicians involved in projects at the airport in Ghat. The Italians were employed by an Italian construction company. It was not immediately clear whether the Canadian worked for the same company or another one.​