Call made from phone of abducted Italian in Iraq
A friend of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who was kidnapped in Baghdad on Friday, received a call on Saturday from Sgrena's telephone but it was unclear who was at the other end of the line.
Barbara Schiavulli, a correspondent for Italian radio news agency GRT, saw Sgrena's number appear on her telephone screen but when she answered she heard only Arab music and no one spoke, an editor at GRT in Rome said.
"The call lasted only a short moment and then the line was cut off. Barbara tried to call back but she couldn't get through. It was impossible to know if the call was intentional or if it was an accident," Simona D'Alessio told Reuters.
Her father Franco spoke on Italian television on Saturday to plead for her release. "My daughter was always against the war and for peace," he said, tears in his eyes and his voice shaky.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Friday Italy was working to secure Sgrena's freedom.
Asked whether Italy would withdraw its forces from Iraq as demanded in an Internet statement purportedly from the kidnappers, he said: "Absolutely not."
Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu was quoted as saying he hoped those who abducted her did so for political reasons. He had said earlier she was probably taken by Sunni insurgents.
"If it's political, they will discover that the journalist is one of those who have always supported their cause," he was quoted as saying in three Italian newspapers on Saturday.
Il Manifesto was virulently opposed to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and is very critical of U.S. policies there.
The 57-year-old, award-winning journalist was a veteran of many war zones.
Her kidnap caused nationwide emotion and dominated news bulletins, where it knocked news of Pope John Paul's health off the top spot for the first time since Tuesday night, when the Pontiff was rushed to hospital with breathing problems.
At a rally to show solidarity with Sgrena on Rome's Capitoline Hill, a giant photograph of her face was unfurled on the facade of the city hall.
Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, aid workers whose release caused national joy in Italy in September after they were held hostage in Iraq for three weeks, took part in the rally.
A little-known Iraqi group, the Islamic Jihad Organization, said it had taken Sgrena hostage and set a 72-hour deadline for Italy to remove its troops but did not make a specific threat against her. It was not possible to verify the statement.