BAGHDAD, Iraq – An Arab television station said Friday it received a video showing the killing of kidnapped Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni (search), whom militants had threatened to execute if Italy did not withdraw troops from Iraq.
The video received by Al-Jazeera appeared to show Baldoni's killing, but the station declined to broadcast the footage out of sensitivity to its viewers, said station spokesman Jihad Ballout.
"To the best of our knowledge, it indicates that the hostage-takers carried out their threat," Ballout said. He declined to say how the journalist was killed.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi (search) condemned the reported killing, but said Italian troops would remain in Iraq.
"There are no words to describe this inhuman act that with one blow wipes out centuries of civilization to bring us back to the dark ages of barbarity," the premier said in a statement. "We will be faithful to the commitments taken with the Iraqi provisional government."
The Italian Foreign Ministry had reported Baldoni missing Friday and said he was believed to have been kidnapped in Najaf, the holy city south of Baghdad where fighters loyal to a radical cleric have been battling U.S. and Iraqi forces for nearly three weeks.
In a video broadcast on Al-Jazeera on Tuesday, a militant group calling itself "The Islamic Army in Iraq" said in a statement it could not guarantee Baldoni's safety unless Italy announced within 48 hours that it would pull out its 3,000 soldiers. soldiers from Iraq, the network said.
In response, Italy said it would keep its troops in Iraq, and Berlusconi's office said the government would work to win Baldoni's freedom.
Baldoni, 56, a part-time journalist whose main job was as an advertising copy writer, went to Iraq for the news magazine Diario. On a Web log he kept while in Iraq, he described himself as a "war tourist," although in other reported comments he insisted he wasn't simply out for cheap thrills.
In an interview broadcast on Al-Jazeera on Wednesday night, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini described Baldoni as a man of peace who was in Iraq "to tell the tale of the suffering of the Iraqi people."
Frattini said Italy would withdraw its troops if requested to do so by the Iraqi government, but would not give in to demands by kidnappers to withdraw the forces.
"We will respect the free will of the Iraqi government. We will do what the Iraqi government asks us," said Frattini, according to a transcript of the interview.
On Thursday, Al-Jazeera also broadcast an appeal from Baldoni's two children, who said their father was a pacifist who wanted to show solidarity with those suffering in the conflict in Iraq.
Militants in Iraq have kidnapped more than 100 foreigners in an effort to force foreign countries to withdraw their forces from Iraq and to persuade foreign companies supporting the troops and working on reconstruction to leave.
Two French journalists are still missing in Iraq. Christian Chesnot (search) of Radio France-Internationale and Georges Malbrunot (search) of Le Figaro newspaper and RTL radio have not been in touch with their news organizations since Thursday.
Friends and associates described Baldoni as an optimistic man with much curiosity, a sense of adventure and a keen sense of irony.
Alessandro Marzo, the magazine's international news editor, described him in an interview this week as a "brilliant writer, full of humor and humanity."
Born in Citta di Castello, in the central Italian Umbria region, Baldoni spent most of his life in Milan. In the 1970s, he started working in advertising, becoming the head of a well-known agency in the northern city.
Baldoni also had a penchant for comics, and translated Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" into Italian.
His passion for travel had brought him to dangerous places in the past.
In 1996, he went to Chiapas, Mexico. He reportedly met with Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos, who two years earlier had started an uprising against the Mexican government. During a 1999 trip to East Timor, Baldoni interviewed for La Repubblica then-independence leader Xanana Gusmao, now East Timor's president. In 2000, he published a piece on a trip to Myanmar in the magazine Specchio.
Between 2001 and 2003 he traveled to Colombia, where he spent a total of about three months. During his second trip, he was kidnapped for a few hours by guerrilla fighters.
In July 2004, shortly before leaving for Iraq, he wrote in his Web log that he felt the moment to visit the war-torn country had come. Baldoni arrived in Baghdad in the first week of August, writing entries for his Internet diary until his disappearance.