BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — One of four Italian hostages in Iraq has been executed, and the hostage-takers are threatening to kill the rest if their demands are not met. The abductors want Italy to withdraw its 2,700 troops from Iraq.
The office of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi early Thursday said a top diplomat was being sent on an urgent mission to Iraq to try to secure the release of the remaining Italians.
Berlusconi also is refusing to back down.
“They have broken a life, they have not cracked our values and our desire for the peace,” Berlusconi said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini first confirmed the execution early Thursday, telling state television that the Italian ambassador to Qatar viewed a portion of the videotaped execution and confirmed that the slain hostage was Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who was working in Iraq as a private security guard.
The Arab television network Al-Jazeera said it received the video of the execution Wednesday from a group claiming to be “The Mujahedeen Brigade.” Al-Jazeera did not air the video because it was too graphic.
Insurgents have increasingly turned to abductions of foreign civilians in Iraq in an attempt to break the U.S.-led coalition. More than 40 hostages have been taken captive in recent days — 32 of whom have been released.
The killing of the Italian man marked the first time a hostage has been confirmed to have been executed. Nine others are believed to remain captive: the three other Italians, an American, three Japanese and two Arabs.
In a new development, the Japanese government said it is investigating reports that two more of its citizens have been kidnapped in Iraq.
Authorities are continuing their efforts to identify four bodies found near Baghdad, according to U.S. State Department officials. The mutilated bodies were found on the outskirts of the capital, an official said.
A truck driver reported killed last Friday by hostile action in Iraq has been identified as Steven Fisher of Virginia Beach, Virginia, a spokeswoman for Halliburton confirmed late Wednesday.
Fisher worked for Kellogg, Brown and Root, a Halliburton subsidiary. On Friday, the company had reported that a KBR truck driver had been killed but did not identify him nor provide the circumstances of his death.
The company did not say whether Fisher’s body was one of the four found near Baghdad, nor whether he was one of the six KBR employees unaccounted for after an attack on a fuel convoy near Baghdad on Friday.
A seventh KBR employee, Thomas Hamill of Macon, Mississippi, was taken hostage by armed men and has been shown alive on videotape. Two U.S. soldiers are also missing from the convoy attack.
Fisher’s father and brother told CNN affiliate WVEC that they had been notified of his death.