The body of an Italian aid worker was found in an abandoned house in the Gaza Strip, according to Hamas sources quoted by the Reuters news service. A group of radical Muslims operating in Gaza had announced just a few hours before on April 14 that Vittorio Arrigoni, a member of the International Solidarity Movement – a nonprofit group that advocates for Palestine – had been abducted. The group threatened to kill him at 10 am local time if the Hamas-controlled government of Gaza did not release several persons currently in jail. The terrorists uploaded photos of the dishevelled and blind-folded young Italian man on YouTube. He appeared to have his hands bound behind his back.
The group did not identify itself in the YouTube video, but it appeared to be aligned with a Salafist strain of militant Islam. Arrigoni was accused by the group of spreading “Western vices,” while it denounced the government of Italy for fighting against Muslims; the group also denounced Hamas for supposedly opposing the imposition of sharia – Muslim religious law. This was the first such abduction in Gaza since 2007, when BBC journalist Alan Johnston was kidnapped and held four months by Hezbollah – another terrorist group.
Arrigoni was an aid worker and also a human rights activist who had assisted several Italian media outlets in updating news since his arrival in the conflictive zone in 2008 at the beginning of Israel’s “Cast Lead” occupation of Gaza. He was a special correspondent of the Italian communist Il Manifesto newspaper, while he also had a blog that gave updates on the situation in Gaza. He wrote a book about his experiences called Restiamo umani (We are still human).
The video recorded by the murderers, and Arrigoni’s website, have received thousands of hits and messages of support. Even though he was not a professional journalist, Arrigoni became a celebrity nonetheless because of his reports on Cast Lead. His last blog entry is dated April 13, featuring a story about Palestinians passing contraband through underground tunnels and thus bypassing Israeli controls.
Another Italian, Sandra Mariani from Tuscany, is being held by AlQaeda in Algeria. There has been no news as to her fate since February 18.