ROME, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Italy's foreign ministry confirmed on Sunday that seven hostages, kidnapped in Nigeria last month have been killed as claimed by Islamic extremists.
"The checks carried out in coordination with the other countries involved led us to believe that the news of killing the hostages seized last month in Nigeria was grounded,"a statement from the ministry said.
Rome prosecutors have opened an investigation over the case, local reports said later on the same day.
All the seven workers taken from northern Bauchi state on Feb. 16, including four Lebanese citizens and one each from Britain, Greece and Italy, were killed by the extremist Islamist group known as Ansaru, which is linked to Al Qaeda and has claimed responsibility.
The Italian victim, Silvano Trevisan, was a 69-year-old engineer from north-western Lombardy region and had been working abroad for a number of years.
"It was an atrocious act of terrorism, against which the Italian government expresses its firmest condemnation, and which is the only explanation for the barbarous and blind violence," the statement said.
The ministry also denied a claim by Ansaru that the hostages were killed before or during a military operation by Nigerian and British forces, saying that there was "no military intervention aimed at freeing the hostages."
Caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti pledged that the Italian government will use "every effort" to stop the killers.
Ansaru has previously issued a statement saying that its fighters had kidnapped the group from a construction company's camp in the north of Bauchi, the capital of Bauchi state. Gunmen had burned police trucks and blown up a back fence at the company's compound, killing a guard.
Last year, another Italian engineer, 47-year-old Franco Lamolinara, was killed by kidnappers along with a British colleague during a joint British-Nigerian operation aimed at freeing them in the northwestern city of Sokoto.
Animals enjoy sunshine in Hannover zoo, Germany
Mass marriage ceremony held in Karachi,Pakistan
Late winter snowstorm hits New York
Flood continues hitting Indonesia's Jakarta
Thousands march with coffin to pay tribute to Chavez
83rd Geneva Int'l Motor Show opens