Elite British "commandos" killed at least nine kidnappers in a dawn raid to rescue hostages held in Afghanistan.
Crack troops from the Special Boat Service (actually the SAS not the SBS) led the mission to save two Italian intelligence officers from a hide-out where they had been held by tribesmen for 36 hours.
As they came under fire, the captors tried to execute their hostages, leaving one with serious head and chest injuries.
No British servicemen were injured in the joint operation with Italian special forces yesterday.
Praising the operation, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said: "It was a heavy defeat for the kidnappers and should serve as a warning."
Italian officials said the men were gagged and chained and had been beaten during their ordeal.
Two vehicles were being monitored and once it became apparent they were about to leave, the operation was launched.
Italian defence minister Arturo Parisi said that pilotless Predator aircraft and Mangusta attack helicopters were deployed.
Nine kidnappers were killed along with an Afghan aide who was with the captives, he added.
*Edited by me. to correct the orginal news story.
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