A pro-Palestinian Italian citizen has been murdered by the Gaza version of al Qaeda:

An Italian activist found dead here early Friday was strangled with a plastic cord, apparently by abductors from a radical Islamic organization inspired by Al Qaeda that said it had kidnapped him a day earlier, according to a physician who performed an autopsy.

Police officers from Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, found the body of the pro-Palestinian activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, 36, in a house in Gaza City. The house was empty of furniture, other than a mattress on which the body was lying, according to witnesses.

The group that claimed the abduction, known as Tawhid and Jihad, had threatened to execute Mr. Arrigoni unless Hamas released its imprisoned leader, Hisham Saidani, who was arrested by Hamas forces in March. In a video released in the group's name on Thursday, the kidnappers set a 30-hour deadline that was to expire at 5 p.m. on Friday.

But the Palestinian doctor who performed an autopsy said the hostage seemed to have been killed at least 24 hours before the deadline was set to expire..

Tawhid and Jihad issued a denial of responsibility on Friday, but there was no way of verifying that claim, nor the earlier claim of responsibility for the video.