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Italy Mourns Hostage Killed in Iraq - 2004-08-27

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has condemned the killing of an Italian hostage in Iraq, and again vowed to keep Italian forces in the country. An Arab television station said Friday that it received a video showing the killing of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni. Militants had threatened to execute him if Italy did not withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Italians woke up to news of the killing of Enzo Baldoni, a 56-year old freelance journalist who had been held hostage in Iraq. His kidnappers, a militant group calling itself "The Islamic Army in Iraq," had given Italy 48-hours to withdraw its troops from Iraq or Mr. Baldoni would be killed. The deadline expired Thursday afternoon.

Following news of the killing, Italian head of state Carlo Azeglio Ciampi wrote a message to the family saying all Italians are in mourning over the journalist's death.

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi condemned what he called the "barbaric" killing, saying there are no words to describe an act lacking any humanity.

The prime minister expressed solidarity with the family, particularly the two children who had launched an appeal "with love and dignity", but which, the prime minister added, "unfortunately turned out to be useless because it was directed at people who evidently had no heart to listen."

Mr. Berlusconi made clear Italy's policies will not change and he says Italian forces will stay in Iraq to help restore peace and democracy in the country.

The Italian government has 3,000 troops in Iraq but anti-war sentiment runs high in Italy with many opposed to keeping Italian troops in the country. Mr. Baldoni was the second Italian hostage to be killed.

One member of the opposition, Green's leader Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, summed up the feelings of many people in the street after hearing of the killing.

"We are wondering", the Greens leader said, "how many more deaths are necessary before we recognize this war was a tragic mistake."