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Italians trying to get journalist's body back

Baldoni killed in Iraq


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Enzo Baldoni
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Italy is working to retrieve the body of journalist Enzo Baldoni, who was killed by his captors in Iraq, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Friday.

"We are following all the roads" by using contacts at the Red Cross and within the European religious community so the body can be returned to his family, Frattini said.

Baldoni was killed Thursday after 6 p.m. Iraqi time, the kidnappers' deadline for Italy to agree to withdraw its troops from Iraq, Frattini said. Italy has about 3,000 forces in the country, most of whom are based near the southern city of Nasiriya.

Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera reported that a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq executed Baldoni, but did not elaborate on how or where he was killed.

Islamic Army in Iraq claimed that it killed two Pakistanis in July and that it kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in early August.

In April, a group called Green Brigades kidnapped four Italians who were working in Iraq for a U.S. security firm. One man was killed, but the other three were freed by U.S. and Polish special forces two months later.

Baldoni's death was confirmed by Italy's ambassador to Qatar, who went to the headquarters of Al-Jazeera and viewed a digital photo of Baldoni, Frattini said.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi contacted Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to express Iraq's condolences to Italy and Baldoni's family, according to the Italian government's Web site. Allawi called the killing "barbaric."

Baldoni's wife, Giusy Bonsignore, said on television, "He is no longer here, but Enzo is still with us." She added, "Enzo was in love with life." The couple has two sons.

Italy's Olympic athletes, including the soccer team, which won a bronze medal Friday against Iraq, wore black arm bands in remembrance of Baldoni.

Baldoni disappeared between Baghdad and Najaf a week ago. A close friend of Baldoni, talking to CNN, criticized the government for taking too long to investigate his disappearance.

Baldoni was a contributor for the Italian news monthly Il Diario, and was planning to write stories for the magazine in Iraq, staffers said. Il Diario's international news editor, Alessandro MarzoMagno, told CNN Thursday that the magazine contacted Al-Jazeera after Baldoni's disappearance and asked the network to pass along a message to his kidnappers. He didn't describe the message.

Baldoni, a successful advertisement agent based in Milan, traveled to Baghdad at his own expense, magazine staffers said.

MarzoMagno said Baldoni took vacations in conflict zones and wrote about the fighting in a personal effort to understand why conflicts evolve into war.

Friends and associates described Baldoni as an optimistic man with much curiosity, a sense of adventure and a keen sense of irony.

Between 2001 and 2003 he traveled to Colombia, where he spent about three months. During his second trip, he was kidnapped for a few hours by guerrilla fighters.

"Some people think I am some sort of a Rambo who loves strong emotions and seeing people die," he once said, according to Rome's La Repubblica newspaper. "I am miles away from that mentality. I am a convinced pacifist and for that reason I am curious to understand what make normal people brandish a gun."

Italy backed U.S.-led war in Iraq

Berlusconi's decision to back U.S. President George W. Bush in Iraq came despite public opinion in Italy being against the war.

Before the conflict, 1 million people marched through the streets of Rome against the war -- one of Europe's biggest anti-war demonstrations.

Although Italian troops did not fight in the war, they were sent in to help rebuild the country after Saddam Hussein was toppled.

CNN's Hada Messia contributed to this report.


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