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Arrigoni and Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh
Photo: EPA
Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni
Photo: AP
Friends of murdered Italian activist 'devastated'
Vittorio Arrigoni's friends say will continue to spread his message, advocate for Palestinian human rights. Salafi group al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad withdraws statement in which it claimed responsibility for activist's abduction, murder

The family and friends of the Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni, who was murdered by a radical Islamist group in Gaza early Friday, are devastated by his death, one of his friends told AFP.

 

"The people who were close to him, as I was, are devastated and consumed by pain," Maria Elena Delia said by telephone in Italy.

 

Delia said rallies and gatherings were planned in Milan, Turin, Rome and Genoa on Friday, including a reading from Arrigoni's book "Gaza, Stay Human" in Turin in the evening.

 

The 36-year-old Arrigoni, who hailed from Besana Brianza near Milan, had been living in Gaza for much of the past three years, working as an activist for the International Solidarity Movement and as a journalist and writer.

 

There he wrote an eyewitness account of the Israeli 22-day offensive against the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009, known as Operation "Cast Lead."

 

"We want to keep attention on the issues Vittorio defended, such as Palestinians' human rights. We will continue to spread his message," Delia said.

 

Earlier Friday the Italian foreign ministry denounced "in the strongest manner the act of vile and senseless violence committed by extremists who are indifferent to the value of human life."

 

In a statement, the ministry expressed "its deep horror over the barbaric murder and its most sincere condolences to the family".

 

The pro-Palestinian activist was found hanged in house north of Gaza City hours after news broke that he had been kidnapped. He was the first foreigner to be killed since Hamas took control in June 2007.

 

In a video posted on YouTube, Arrigoni's Salafist captors had demanded the release of an unspecified number of their members detained by the security forces in the Gaza Strip, threatening to execute the hostage if their demand was not met.

 

Two of Arrigoni's presumed abductors have been arrested, a Hamas security spokesman said.


Arrigoni's friends try to come to terms with murder (Photo: Reuters)

 

Prominent figure

Meanwhile, Palestinian terror group al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad withdrew a statement in which it claimed responsibility for Arrigoni's kidnapping and murder on Friday.

 

"Even though we have no connection to the kidnapping, we would like to stress that what happened is the natural outcome to the Hamas government policy against other organizations within the Strip," the group said.

 

Arrigoni was a prominent figure in Gaza and often held debates with those who opposed his opinions on his blog. There was considerable opposition to his opinions in Italy including a facebook group named "the response to Arrigoni" which confronted him directly.

 

Last week he criticized the group, whose Facebook page posted a photo of a T-shirt with an image of a viewfinder on a Palestinian pregnant woman. The caption reads: 'Two birds with one stone'. "This is the learned remark of a group whose dedicated goal is abusing and insulting, a neo-Nazi rabble who would most likely wear these shirts," Arrigoni wrote and posted a picture of an IDF soldier.

 

In his final post he wrote about Gaza smugglers' "invisible battle for survival".

 

"Gaza is suffocating in Israel's villainous blockade," he wrote.

 

Elior Levy and AFP contributed to this report

 

 

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