The death of two Italian hostages in Libya this week and the liberation of another two have added urgency to calls for Italy to intervene militarily in its former colony.

The U.S. ambassador to Italy, John Philips, said in an interview published Friday that Italy had committed to providing upward of 5,000 troops for an international force, though a U.S. embassy spokesman stressed that he was merely repeating what Italian defense and foreign ministers had said previously.

Italy has long said it would take part in an international force to stabilize the country and help stem the waves of migrants who have used Libya as a jumping off point to reach Europe. But it has insisted it would only do so if formally requested by a Libyan national unity government.