Two more Gazans arrested in murder of Italian activist

Vittorio Arrigoni's body found early Friday by Hamas security officials; Al-Qaida aligned group had threatened to kill him if demands not met.

April 16, 2011 16:26
2 minute read.
Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni

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


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Two suspects have been arrested in the Gaza murder of an Italian peace activist, Hamas announced Saturday.

Hamas security officials found the body of Vittorio Arrigoni early Friday in an abandoned house. He had been strangled.

Prior to Saturday's arrests, two additional men were taken into custody early Friday.

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A Jihadist Salafi group in Gaza aligned with al-Qaida had threatened on Thursday to execute Arrigoni by 5 p.m. local time (2 p.m. GMT) unless their leader, arrested by Hamas last month, was freed.

"A security force entered a house and they found the Italian man's body, he is dead," the official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters from the scene.

Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction was driven out of Gaza by Hamas in a 2007 civil war, called Arrigoni's killing "a dark page in Palestinian history."

Arrigoni, a pacifist and blogger, had lived in Gaza since August 2008. He arrived on a boat bringing humanitarian supplies that Israel had admitted despite enforcing a blockade on the tiny coastal territory.

The Salafists, who see Hamas as insufficiently zealous in enforcing Islamic law, also have attacked Internet cafes and want Christians expelled. Palestinian and Israeli analysts believe some Gaza-based Salafists are foreigners who slipped in through the neighboring Egyptian Sinai.

Ehab Al-Ghssain, spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry, told a news conference the arrest and questioning of one of the group had led to the discovery of where Arrigoni was being held.

"The forces moved quickly and wisely to the place but found that the abducted man was killed hours earlier in an ugly manner, according to the pathologist," Ghssain said.

Hamas also condemned the killing, saying that it was a shameful act, contrary to the tradition of the Palestinian people. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the "goal of this depraved band of outlaws was to spread chaos and anarchy in the Gaza Strip, a desperate attempt to strike at the stable security situation."

He added that the kidnapping and murder of Arrigoni was intended to prevent the next flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip, expected to depart next month. Barhoum explained that he believed the murder was meant to dissuade other foreign activists from arriving in the Strip.

Accordingly, Hamas accused Israel of being behind the attack, noting that Arrigoni had often spoken out against Israeli policies in Gaza, going so far as to compare what he called "Israeli crimes against Palestinians" to Nazi crimes. Additionally, he was twice arrested by Israeli authorities.

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