April 20, 2011 11:27 am

Hamas claim success in activist’s murder case

Hamas officials say they have solved last week’s murder of an Italian activist in the Gaza Strip, claiming that all five members of the Jihadi cell responsible for the killing are now either dead or in custody.

Vittorio Arrigoni, 36, was abducted last Thursday, and found strangled in an abandoned building in Gaza the following day. A member of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, he had been living in the coastal territory for almost three years.

Two of his alleged captors were arrested on Friday, while three more suspects were cornered in a building in the al-Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Tuesday.

According to the Hamas interior ministry, one of the three suspects – a Jordanian national named Abdelrahmen al-Breizat – detonated a grenade that killed one of the other men and injured the third, who was later arrested. Mr al-Breizat shot himself during the standoff.

Hamas did not say what group the men belonged to, but described the suspects as “ideologically deviant” – a term the Islamist group has used in the past to identify so-called Jihadist Salafists, an extremist branch of Islam that identifies with al-Qaeda and is said to be attracting growing support inside the Gaza Strip.

Three policemen were injured in the operation.

The alleged captors had posted a video of Mr Arrigoni, bound and blindfolded, on the internet last Thursday, demanding the release of a well-known Jihadist Salafist leader arrested by the local authorities earlier in the year.

Mr Arrigoni was the first foreigner to be abducted in Gaza since the high-profile kidnapping of Alan Johnston, a BBC journalist, four years ago. Mr Johnston was released shortly after Hamas took control of the strip in June 2007, and Gaza has been widely regarded as a safe destination for foreign journalists, aid workers and diplomats since then.

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