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Italian journalist slain in Iraq


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Baldoni at a Red Cross camp in Najaf earlier in August.
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- An Italian journalist held hostage in Iraq has been killed, the Italian government confirmed on Thursday.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi quickly condemned the execution of Enzo Baldoni while his government vowed to stay active in the war against terrorism.

"There are no words for an inhumane act that ... cancels centuries of civilization to bring us back to the Dark Ages," Berlusconi said in a statement.

The Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera reported that a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq executed Baldoni because the Italian government did not meet its demands to withdraw its troops from Iraq within 48 hours.

It was not known when and where the killing occurred.

Baldoni was married and had two sons.

Berlusconi expressed solidarity with Baldoni's family, "especially for those two young lads who with so much love and dignity launched an appeal which turned out, unfortunately, to be useless."

The prime minister vowed that Italy would maintain its commitment to "to strike terrorism everywhere and in any form it manifests itself."

The nation also remains committed to the provisional Iraqi government to return peace and democracy to Iraq.

Al-Jazeera said it has a tape showing Baldoni after his execution, but they refused to air it out of respect for his family.

Baldoni disappeared between Najaf and Baghdad last Thursday.

Al-Jazeera aired video of an Italian man on Tuesday whom they said was taken hostage. In it, the Islamic Army of Iraq said the man, who identifies himself as Baldoni, "claims to be a journalist."

The man speaks in English on the video, and says he is 56 years old.

"I'm a journalist. I write about social issues and I volunteer with the Red Cross," he says. "I came to Iraq to write a chapter for my book on the resistance."

The tape shows Baldoni's passport and other kinds of identification.

Soon after the video appeared on Al-Jazeera, the Italian government released a statement saying that while it was committed to obtaining Baldoni's release, it would keep its military and civilian presence in Iraq "for the contribution to the re-establishment of the security and public order which are indispensable conditions for Italy's active role in the humanitarian assistance."

Italy has about 3,000 troops in Iraq, most of which are based near Nasiriya.

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 on Thursday that the magazine had no independent confirmation of his death.

MarzoMagno said the magazine contacted Al-Jazeera after his disappearance and asked the network to pass along a message to his kidnappers. He did not describe its contents.

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.

After seeing video of her husband on Al-Jazeera, Giusy Bonsignore told the Italian wire service ANSA she was in constant contact with the Italian Foreign Ministry.

CNN Producer Hada Messia in Rome contributed to this report.


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