Several Italian newspapers speculated on Sunday that the tape, which recently came into Aljazeera's possession, contained images of struggle and violence.

But in a statement on Sunday, Aljazeera called the newspaper allegations "an absolute fabrication".

The channel said the tape - which consisted of only 15 seconds of footage - comprises one image focusing on Baldoni's head, neck and part of his shoulder protruding from a sandy ditch.

In the tape, a purported Iraqi group identifying itself as the Islamic Army in Iraq, said Baldoni had been executed because its demands had not been met.

A previous video broadcast on Aljazeera last week showed the group demanding 3000 Italian occupation troops withdraw from Iraq within 48 hours.

Distressing

"In accordance with Aljazeera's policy, and on humane grounds, the channel invited the Italian ambassador in Doha, Giuseppe Buccino, to preview the recording and carry out what is deemed appropriate in terms of communicating the unfortunate news to Mr Baldoni's family," the statement read.

"While broadcasting the news item ... Aljazeera refrained from airing the footage as it might be distressing for its viewers"

Aljazeera statement

"While broadcasting the news item ... Aljazeera refrained from airing the footage as it might be distressing for its viewers, as the anchorperson clearly read out at the time of broadcast."

Baldoni, 56, disappeared last week on the road to Najaf, the scene of fierce fighting between US troops and the al-Mahdi Army of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

In addition to reporting for Italian newspapers, Baldoni was volunteering for the Red Cross while in Iraq.

Four other Italians have been captured in Iraq since April by groups seeking to force US allies to leave the country.