Mideast: Gaza; Arrigoni, Hamas frees Salafite leader

His followers kidnapped and killed Italian activist

03 August, 12:45

(ANSAmed) - GAZA, AUGUST 3 - After a year and a half of detention, Hamas freed yesterday Salafite sheik Abu el Walid al-Maqdisi, leader of the group 'al-Tawhid wal-Jihad' close to al-Qaida which kidnapped and killed Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni in April last year. The leader's release had been one of the conditions set by the extremist group when it seized Arrigoni.

Local authorities reportedly chose to release the man, who was detained without trial, as they believe they have defeated his armed group of followers, which was particularly strong in the South of the Gaza Strip.

According to local sources, al-Maqdisi - an Egyptian previously residing in Gaza whose real name is Hisham al-Saidni - is still highly considered by fundamentalists in Gaza and has a major following. Some analysts believe his release could have an impact on Egyptian Sinai, where a number of terror cells closed to al-Qaida operate.

According to Israel, al-Maqdisi masterminded a terror attack in the Sinai in 2006 in which 19 people died.

In a development yesterday which appears to have no connection with the militant's release, Israel's security services launched an urgent safety warning for all Israelis in the Sinai to leave the area at once given the increased risk of attacks and kidnappings.(ANSAmed).

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