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Salafi leader: Islam prohibits murder

April 15, 2011 1:59 P.M. (Updated: April 16, 2011 4:45 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Salafi leader Iyad Ash-Shami said Friday that Salafi groups were not involved in the murder of an Italian activist in the Gaza Strip.

The killing of Vittorio Arrigoni "had nothing to do with Islam," he said, adding that Salafi groups and scholars all agreed that the killing of any man was prohibited.

The body of Vittorio Arrigoni was found hanged in a home northwest of Gaza City early Friday morning, hours after the International Solidarity Movement activist was kidnapped in the coastal enclave.

Salafi radicals were suspected of kidnapping Arrigoni, last seen alive in a video posted online Thursday.

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.

They threatened to kill Arrigoni unless Hamas released Salafist prisoners by Friday evening. Before the deadline passed, however, Hamas said his body was found.

Ash-Shami said "any government or state anywhere in the world" could have made the video, but said Salafi factions in Gaza would meet Friday to decide how to respond to the killing.

Earlier Friday, Salafi faction At-Tawheed wa Al-Jihad denied involvement in the abduction and murder of Arrigoni, but said it was "a natural outcome of the policy of the government carried out against the Salafi."

The Hamas-run government in Gaza has in recent years taken a hard line against Salafists in Gaza, whose religious observances and refusal to comply with ceasefires with Israel has led to confrontations.

Hamas severed ties with Salafist faction the Army of Islam in 2007 after the group claimed responsibility for kidnapping BBC reporter Alan Johnson.

Hamas helped to secure the journalist's release after four months in captivity.

In August 2009, Salafist faction Jund Ansar Allah (Soldiers of the Partisans of God) announced the creation of an Islamist "emirate" in Gaza, during a sermon at a mosque in the southern city of Rafah.

That prompted a furious response from Hamas, whose forces stormed the mosque, prompting clashes which left 24 people dead.

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