Islamists killed an Italian activist after kidnapping him in Gaza, a Hamas security official said Friday.
"The Italian was killed by suffocation and his body was found in a street of the city of Gaza," a spokesman for Hamas told AFP. Two suspected kidnappers were detained.
The victim was named as Vittorio Arrigoni. He was an activist with a pro-Palestinian group called the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), who was also working as a journalist and writer. In a video posted on YouTube, the Islamist group said it had taken him hostage in order to secure the release of their members who had been arrested by the security forces in the Gaza Strip.
It said it would execute him if their demands were not met by 5:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Friday.
"We kidnapped the Italian prisoner Vittorio and we call on the Haniya government ... to release all our prisoners," it said, referring to Hamas Premier Ismail Haniya and naming an imprisoned jihadi leader called Sheikh Hisham al-Suedani.
"If you don't respond quickly to our demands, within 30 hours from 11:00 am (0800 GMT) on April 14, we will execute this prisoner," it said.
The kidnappers identified themselves in the video as belonging to a previously unknown group called The Brigade of the Gallant Companion of the Prophet Mohammed bin Muslima. The group described Arrigoni as a "journalist who came to our country for nothing but to corrupt people -- from Italy, the state of infidelity, whose armies are still in the Muslim countries".