Holy Land: Italian peace activist murdered by Islamic militants

Italian journalist and peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni been found murdered. He is  the second non-Palestinian to be murdered in the past week in the occupied territories.

Arrigoni, who was know as 'Vik'  was murdered by the Tawheed and Jihad group, one of several extremist Islamic groups operating in Gaza in opposition to the Hamas government. The group abducted Arrigoni in an attempt to force Hamas to release its leader, who was arrested last month.

Arrigoni was a journalist who was involved in the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) defending the rights of Palestinians. A video posted on Youtube yesterday  showed him blindfolded with thick tape and a bruised face.

Last week Juliano Mer-Khamis, an Israeli actor who ran a theatre in the West Bank city of Jenin was shot dead. It is not clear why he was killed.

Arrigoni had written three posts on his Guerilla Radio blog on Thursday, the day he was abducted : one about the deaths of four men in Gaza in a collapsed tunnel; comments on Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and comments on Hosni Mubarak, former Egyptian president.

American volunteer Nathan Stuckey, said Arrigoni spent most of his time working as a journalist but was also involved in promoting the rights of Gazan fishermen to fish freely without hindrance from the Israeli navy.

He said: "At the moment, he was particularly focused on the launch of our new boat, which we will use to monitor the navy's violations of the rights of the fishermen. He often said that he now felt more at home in Gaza than in Italy and he was strongly committed to the Palestinian cause."

The Guardian reports: "Foreigners and outsiders are normally warmly welcomed in Palestinian communities, who regard them as allies against Israel. Previously the greatest risk for foreigners was seen to be from the Israeli army. Rachel Corrie from the US and Tom Hurndall from London were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2003 and 2004 while volunteering for the ISM.

It says: "Hamas is widely perceived around the world as a radical Islamic group but since it participated in elections and took control in Gaza, it has become more mainstream. Small groups inspired by al-Qaida or other Islamist groups have emerged and find willing supporters among young people, of whom more than 70% are unemployed."

"The Army of Islam emerged from the Popular Resistance Committee and initially carried out operations with Hamas such as the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in 2006. When relations between Hamas and the Army of Islam broke down the Army began kidnapping foreigners, including two people from Fox TV in 2006 and the BBC's Alan Johnston in 2007. Johnston was held for four months before he was released unharmed."

"Since then Hamas has worked hard to ensure the security of foreigners in Gaza and suppress groups that challenge its authority. Many of the leaders of the Army of Islam, who were mostly from the Dogmush family, were killed or arrested by Hamas and some were also killed in Israeli air attacks.

"In 2009, Sheikh Abdel Latif Moussa proclaimed an Islamic emirate from his mosque in Rafah. Hamas forces surrounded the mosque and killed the sheikh and 23 of his followers. The group had previously launched an unsuccessful attack on Israeli border positions.

"Another group called the Sword of Truth has bombed internet cafes and beauty parlours and was believed to have been behind the murder of a Christian bookseller in 2007.

"Tawheed and Jihad, which means the oneness of God and holy war or struggle, were led in Gaza by Sheikh Abu Walid-al-Maqdas, a Jordanian Palestinian who was arrested by Hamas last month.

"Arrigoni's kidnappers gave a Friday deadline for the release of the sheikh but the Italian was believed to have been killed soon after his abduction."

Hamas spokesman Ehab al-Ghassain told journalists: "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."

See also: www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=18066

The British Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt said: "I condemn the killing of Vittorio Arrigoni in Gaza and pass my condolences to his family and friends. It is clear those responsible have targeted an innocent man for their own selfish interests. Their cowardly actions have robbed the Palestinians of a true friend, and Vittorio Arrigoni’s family of a son. The authorities in Gaza must uphold their responsibility to bring to justice those responsible for this heinous act."

Source: Guardian/BBC/ISM/Foreign Office

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