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Monday, April 18, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Al Qaida-tied militia kills Italian hostage in Gaza

GAZA CITY — After a lull of nearly four years, Al Qaida-aligned militias have begun abducting foreigners in the Gaza Strip.


An Al Qaida-aligned militia has abducted and killed an Italian in the Gaza Strip. Tawhid Wal Jihad sought to use the abduction to force Hamas to release the militia's leader, Hisham Saydani, imprisoned since March.

Hamas said the killing of a Westerner could hamper plans to send a flotilla of ships to the Gaza Strip in May. The forthcoming flotilla was meant to contain 15 ships.

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Tawhid confirmed the abduction and released a video of the abductee, Middle East Newsline reported. He was seen blindfolded and bloody.

"The Italian hostage entered our land only to spread corruption," Tawhid said in a statement that accompanied the video.

"Security forces moved quickly and wisely to the place, but found that the abducted man was killed hours earlier in an ugly manner," Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ihab Ghussein said.

In a briefing on April 15, Ghussein said the Italian captive, identified as Vittorio Arrigoni, was strangled. He said the abductors rented a house to conceal and kill Arrigoni, who had helped bring supplies to the Gaza Strip.

"Their intention from the very beginning was to kill their victim, because the crime took place shortly after his abduction," Ghussein said.

The abduction of Arrigoni, 36 and a member of the International Solidarity Movement, was the first in the Gaza Strip since 2007. Weeks before the Hamas takeover in 2007, another Al Qaida-aligned militia, the Army of Islam, kidnapped a BBC correspondent, Alan Johnston. Johnston was released after 114 days.

"We will hunt down the rest of the [Tawhid] group and the law will be implemented against them," Ghussein said.

Officials said at least four Tawhid operatives have been arrested. The militia has also been accused of attacking Christian and secular Muslim homes and businesses in the Gaza Strip.

"The crime that took place was an isolated incident," Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said.

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