Italy's Foreign Ministry summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Rome to express concern after the body of an Italian man showing signs of torture was dumped on the side of a Cairo highway. 

On Thursday, the ministry's director-general, Michele Valensise, "urgently" summoned Egyptian Ambassador Amr Mostafa Kamal Helmy after the body of Giulio Regeni, 28, a graduate student at Cambridge University in the UK, was found a day earlier.

Regeni, a PhD student, disappeared on January 25.

Late on Thursday, Il Manifesto, an Italian newspaper, revealed Regeni worked as a freelance writer for the publication, and was writing from Egypt using a pseudonym. The editor of the paper said Regeni told him he feared for his life. 

The cause of death was still under investigation but prosecutor Ahmed Nagi, who leads the investigation team on the case, told the Associated Press news agency that "all of his body, including his face" had bruises, cuts from stabbings, and burns from cigarettes.

It appeared to have been a "slow death", said Nagi.

The ministry said it expected "maximum collaboration at all levels in light of the exceptional gravity of what happened.

"In his country's name, Helmy expressed profound condolences for Regeni's death and assured us Egypt will cooperate fully in finding those responsible for this criminal act," the statement said.

Regeni, whose studies included Arabic and Arab literature, was from Fiumicello, near Udine in northeastern Italy.

He was in Cairo doing research for his doctoral thesis, and was last seen when he left his suburban home with the intention of travelling by metro to meet a friend in the city centre.

Cairo was extremely quiet on the day he disappeared. Authorities had ordered a security clampdown on the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising, which ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year reign.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was the first Western leader to receive former army chief and current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi after the 2013 overthrow of his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi.

Source: Agencies