Gaza murder 'result of Hamas repression'
Gaza City - A radical Islamist group said on Friday that the murder of an Italian pro-Palestinian activist in Gaza was the result of Hamas's "repression" of Salafists.
In a statement, Gaza-based Tawhid wal Jihad said they played no role in the kidnapping of 36-year-old Vittorio Arrigoni, who according to Hamas was found hanged in a house in northern Gaza shortly after his kidnap.
"While we, Tawhid wal Jihad, had no role in this kidnapping, we affirm that what happened is the natural result of the repressive policy of Hamas and its government against the Salafists," a statement by the group said.
A video released by Arrigoni's kidnappers hours before his death demanded that Hamas release Salafist prisoners including Tawhid wal Jihad leader Hisham al-Suedani, who was arrested in March.
"We and others have for a long time warned the Hamas government against the risks of acting so close to injustice against the Salafist trend at the request of the international community. Hamas was so arrogant they refused to even listen," the group said.
They urged Hamas "to listen to the voice of reason" and called for the release of Salafist prisoners including Suedani "before it is too late".
Killed before deadline
Arrigoni's kidnappers identified themselves as belonging to a previously unknown Salafist group called The Brigade of the Gallant Companion of the Prophet Mohammed bin Muslima.
In a video that purportedly showed Arrigoni, his face bruised and bloodied, his eyes covered in black duct tape and his hands bound behind his back, they warned he would be killed if their prisoner release demands were not met.
"If you don't respond quickly to our demands, within 30 hours from 11:00 on April 14, we will execute this prisoner," they said.
It was unclear why they killed their hostage before the expiry of the deadline.
There are five major Salafist groups in Gaza, including Tawhid wal Jihad, who espouse a particularly austere form of Sunni Islam.
Their religious observances and refusal to abide by various ceasefires have set them on a path of confrontation with Hamas.
In 2007, the Salafist Army of Islam claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston. Hamas severed ties with the group and freed Johnston after four months in captivity.