David Cameron authorised the operation after getting information that their lives were in imminent danger, however the Italian have since said that they weren’t made aware of the operation, until it was underway.

The two men, held hostage since last May by a militant jihadist sect called Boko Haram, were murdered before special forces could breach the outer wall of the building they were being held in.

The operation was carried out after Nigerian special forces discovered where the two were being held during a raid of a Boko Haram hideout in Kaduna.

However news of the raid got back to Boko Haram, who is it believed, killed the hostages as retaliation, before the rescue attempt could be mounted.

Italian prime minister, Marion Monti was only informed of the operation once it had begun, such was the pace at which things unfolded.

An SBS unit supported the Nigerian special forces in the operation which took place during the hours of daylight.

Local reports say that gunfire lasted for several hours after military forces surrounded a house in the city.

Announcing the deaths of the hostages, David Cameron said: “Our immediate thoughts must be with Chris and Franco’s families, and we offer them our sincerest condolences. Both families have endured a terrible ordeal, and this is a devastating moment for all of them.”

“After months of not knowing where they were being held, we received credible information about their location. A window of opportunity arose to secure their release.

“We also had reason to believe that their lives were under imminent and growing danger.

“Preparations were made to mount an operation to attempt to rescue Chris and Franco. Together with the Nigerian government, today I authorised it to go ahead, with UK support,” he said.

A statement released by Chris McManuses family said: “We are of course devastated by the news of Chris’s death, which we received earlier today.

“During this ordeal we have relied heavily on the support of our family and friends which has never waned and has enabled us to get through the most difficult of times.

“We are also aware of the many people who were working to try and have Chris returned to our family, and his girlfriend.

“We would like to thank all of them for their efforts. We knew Chris was in an extremely dangerous situation. However, we knew that everything that could be done was being done.

“Our thoughts are also of course with the loved ones of Chris’s colleague, Franco Lamolinara, who are also coming to terms with this truly sad news.”

The news was greeted with some consternation in Italy, with MP Rosa Calipari asking why their country wasn’t informed of the operation until it was underway.

Lamolinara leaves behind a wife and two children, an 18-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter.

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