2 suspects in Gaza activist slaying killed in Hamas raid

Third suspect wounded after gunfight with Hamas forces at building where they were hiding; Jordanian national among those killed.

April 19, 2011 20:12
2 minute read.
Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni

Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

Hamas policemen on Tuesday raided a house in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip where three men who kidnapped and murdered an Italian activist were hiding.

The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior said that one of the suspects tossed an explosive device at his two friends before fatally shooting himself in the head.

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One of them, Bilal al-Omari, later died of his wounds, while the third man, Muhammad al-Salfiti, was lightly wounded and taken into custody by Hamas policemen who stormed the house.

Three Hamas policemen were also wounded in an earlier exchange of gunfire with the suspects, the ministry said.

The man who allegedly committed suicide was identified as Abdel Rahman al- Braizat, a Jordanian citizen who infiltrated the Gaza Strip several weeks ago.

The three were wanted in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni, a Hamas security official said.

All three suspects belonged to a radical Salafi group known as Tawheed wah-Jihad that claimed responsibility for Arrigoni’s murder.

Arrigoni’s body was discovered on Friday morning in an abandoned house in Gaza City hours after he was kidnapped.

The kidnappers said they were seeking the release of their leader, Hisham al-Saidini, who has been in Hamas detention since January.

Arrigoni was murdered long before the deadline set by the kidnapers expired, Hamas officials said.

The three suspects had barricaded themselves inside a house in the Nuseirat refugee camp, refusing to surrender to Hamas policemen who sealed off the entire neighborhood at midday on Tuesday.

During the standoff, Hamas security forces brought the detained leader of the group, Saidini, to the area to try to convince the three suspects to lay down their weapons and surrender.

The suspects responded by opening fire at the security forces surrounding the house with automatic rifles, witnesses reported.

In January, Hamas security forces arrested Saidini, who is known as the “emir” of the Tawheed wah-Jihad militia.

Hours before the raid, Hamas published photos and names of the three suspects, who it said were directly linked to the abduction and murder of the Italian activist.

In an unprecedented step, Hamas also promised a reward to anyone who provided information leading to their arrest.

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