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Salafist who killed Italian activist escapes Gaza to Syria: Reports

One of the members of a Salafist group that kidnapped and murdered Vittorio Arrigoni in 2011 escaped prison and is allegedly in Syria
A Palestinian artist finishes a mural painting dedicated to activist Vittorio Arrigoni in Gaza City (AFP)

One of the four killers involved in the 2011 kidnap and murder of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni has escaped from prison in the Gaza Strip and has allegedly joined the Islamic State group in Syria.

Mahmoud al-Salfiti, who was originally sentenced to life in prison by the Hamas government in 2012 but later had his sentence commuted to 15 years, took advantage of a visit to his family outside of prison for the month of Ramadan.

Hamas allows prisoners to visit their families every Thursday in Ramadan, but that privilege was traditionally awarded to petty criminals, as opposed to murderers.

Local media outlets confirmed that he had left the Gaza Strip and speculated that he may be in Syria now. Whether Salfiti used a fake ID at the Rafah border crossing, or escaped the strip through tunnels remains unknown, reported local newspaper al-Quds.

Translation: al-Quds newspaper sources: After being granted leave to see his family in Ramadan, one of those involved in the 2011 kidnap and murder of the Italian journalist Vittorio escaped from prison in Gaza

Hamas has not commented on the case.

Arrigoni’s charisma was well known in Gaza City. He was a writer, pacifist and a member of the International Solidarity Movement and had lived in Gaza for several years. He was kidnapped in April 2011 and a few hours later was found strangled in an abandoned house.

The four Salafists who were later arrested had threatened to kill the Italian activist unless Hamas freed Hisham al-Saidni, a Salafist leader, from its prisons.

In addition to Salfiti, Tamer al-Hasasna was also given a life sentence that was later reduced to 15 years. Arrigoni’s parents had asked the Hamas military court not to give them the death penalty. The third associate, Amer Abu Ghola, served a lighter sentence of one year for providing the apartment that Arrigoni was found in, while the fourth, Khadr Faruk Jram, evaded arrest despite being sentenced to 10 years.

The group belonged to the Salafist group Jahafil al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad fi Filastin, thought to be aligned with al-Qaeda.

Rumours of Salfiti escaping to Syria to fight with the Islamic State have been propagated unofficially by his Salafist group, according to local journalists in Gaza.

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