By all accounts here, Enzo Baldoni, the latest victim in Iraq of a videotaped killing at unknown hands, was a kind, light-hearted man.
That fits the Italians' image of themselves -- a people the whole world views as simpatico, likable. So Friday, Italians not only mourned Baldoni but wondered aloud: How could this happen to such nice people, Baldoni and us?
"To us it seems he died for remaining faithful to his own character in a world in which generosity and fantasy are every day despised and trampled on," said Sergio Romano, a political commentator.
Such reflections represent a view widely held by the Italian government, press and public of the country's geopolitical place in the world. Unlike the United States, many people here contend, Italy is not out to change unfriendly governments through pressure or force of arms. Nor is it like Britain, out to support such campaigns with any political and military means available. Nor is it like France, which opposes the United States at almost every turn. Nor is it like Germany, pacifist to the point of non-involvement in messy affairs.
Rather, Italy's role is to be nice. "Someone as likable had never been kidnapped," columnist Francesco Merlo wrote hopefully in the leftist Repubblica newspaper.
On Wednesday, Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini defined his country's role in Iraq for Arabic-language satellite television. It had nothing to do with stabilizing a country that is in the middle of a power struggle, but to "to help the children, the women, the sick and . . . to rebuild the roads."
In a desperate appeal the same day, two adult children of Baldoni went on the air to beg for their father's safety, saying he was "a man of peace" who was showing "solidarity" with the Iraqis.
Friday, Italian officials said that Baldoni was dead when the appeal was made. The kidnappers killed him shortly after they ambushed his car on the road from Najaf to Baghdad, took him away and videotaped him stating the kidnappers' demands that Italy pull its 2,700 troops out of Iraq.
The Italian ambassador in Qatar viewed the videotape of Baldoni's apparent death, which was delivered to the studios of the Arabic-language satellite channel al-Jazeera. The channel declined to air the tape, citing its gruesome nature.
An intelligence official said the kidnappers, who called themselves the Islamic Army in Iraq, comprised both Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
Baldoni, 56, had gone to Iraq for a small leftist weekly. He was an advertising salesman, but occasionally traveled to war zones, partly as a journalist and partly just to go. Asked once why he went to hot spots, he told a reporter, "I am a convinced pacifist, and for that reason I am curious to understand what makes normal people brandish a gun."
He was traveling from Najaf with the Italian Red Cross but went off with his Iraqi interpreter. The interpreter was killed in the ambush.
Toward the day's end, news arrived that Turkey now appeared to be the latest country to have kidnapped citizens killed in Iraq. Al-Jazeera television reported that the bodies of two Turkish hostages were found by a road near the town of Baiji, according to the Reuters news agency.