Italian man becomes first hostage to be executed

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The Independent Online

Italy's support for the American-led war in Iraq was again placed under pressure last night as it was revealed that an Italian hostage had been executed by his Iraqi kidnappers.

Italy's support for the American-led war in Iraq was again placed under pressure last night as it was revealed that an Italian hostage had been executed by his Iraqi kidnappers.

The Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini confirmed that an Italian official had watched a video recording of the killing, believed to be the first of a hostage.

The Arab news channel al-Jazeera first reported the killing of Fabrizio Quattrocchi, one of four Italian security guards who were abducted on Monday. The channel had been passed a video of the killing and it was presumably this recording that was viewed by the Italian ambassador to Qatar, where the network is based.

"He saw the film," Mr Frattini said during a live TV talk show. "We are all close to the young men who are there, and to the family of the young man who was killed." He added: "We have to work hard to bring them out. We will do everything, we will do everything. Unfortunately, we don't know exactly who these people are."

The videotape was accompanied by a statement from a previously unknown group calling itself the Green Battalion, which threatened to "kill the three remaining Italian hostages one after the other, if their demands are not met", al-Jazeera said. The group demanded the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, an apology from the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and the release of religious clerics held in Iraq.

Mr Berlusconi said: "They have cut short a life. They have not damaged our values and our commitment to peace."

Earlier yesterday Mr Frattini told an Italian parliamentary commission that the government would not negotiate directly with the kidnappers and would not pay any ransom. He also said an Iranian delegation was heading to Baghdad to help secure the release of the Italians. Mr Frattini advocated "looking into every means of obtaining the release of the Italians and all the hostages without giving into blackmail or employing direct negotiations".

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