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Giovanni Lo Porto, Slain Italian Aid Worker, Loved Pakistan And Its People

Giovanni Lo Porto, the Italian aid worker inadvertently killed in a U.S. operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, was abducted Jan. 19, 2012, soon after he arrived in Pakistan to begin work for a German NGO.

There was little news of him after that – the exception being an indirect reference to him in a 2012 video featuring Bernd Mühlenbeck, a German colleague who was abducted along with Lo Porto. In that video, Mühlenbeck, who like the Italian worked with Welt HungerHilfe, did not directly name Lo Porto, but, as The Associated Press reported at the time, he "repeatedly used the plural when speaking about his situation." (Mühlenbeck was freed last October.)

La Repubblica newspaper called Lo Porto a "brilliant young aid worker." The 39-year-old native of Palermo studied at London Metropolitan University. The Guardian, which profiled him in 2013, says:

"After graduating from the peace and conflict studies course at London Met in 2010, Lo Porto, an experienced aid worker, joined short-term projects in the Central African Republic and Haiti before travelling to Pakistan to help rebuild an area hit by severe flooding.

"According to friends, he fell in love with the region and worked to improve water supplies and sanitation in the Punjab, returning again at the beginning of 2012."

"He told me: 'I'm happy to be back in Asia and Pakistan, I do love the people, the culture and the food of this part of the world,'" Mike Newman, a professor at the university who taught Lo Porto, told The Guardian. "Pakistan was his real love and he felt he had done a good job there establishing positive relations with the local population and staff. He was so delighted to be back."

President Obama announced today that Lo Porto was killed in January in a U.S. strike on an al-Qaida facility in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. The operation also killed American aid worker Warren Weinstein.

ANSA, the Italian news agency, said Lo Porto's family was devastated by the news of his death. His mother, ANSA reported, did not want to talk to reporters.

"Leave me with my pain," she said.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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