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Mario Cerciello Rega: US teenagers arrested for murdering "blindfolded" police

<img class = "js-image-replace" alt = "Carabinieri officers paid tribute to Mario Cerciello Rega at a service in Rome, Italy, in Rome, Italy

Italian police investigate a leaked photo of a blindfolded American teenage boy accused of killing an officer in Rome.

The photo of the murder suspect Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth (18) was shown on Sunday by Italian media.

Mr. Natale-Hjorth and his friend, 19-year-old Finnegan Lee Elder, were arrested on suspicion of being arrested police officer Mario Cerciello Rega on Friday.

The 35-year-old Rega was stabbed in the Prati district of Rome.

He was reported to have been stabbed eight times after investigating a drug trafficking operation where the teenager's suspects failed.

The police claim that two students, Natale-Hjorth and Elder of San Francisco, California, "blamed themselves."

Mr. Natale-Hjorth's picture, blindfolded and hands tied behind his back, was taken after her arrest.

It was leaked to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, whose article on the image was comparable to the treatment of prisoners in the US military camp Guant√°namo Bay.

Italy's military police, the Carabinieri, have tried to distance themselves from the leak of the photo and have initiated an investigation.

"This is an unacceptable episode and should be treated as such," said General Commander Giovanni Nistri to Corriere della Sera.

Police Commander Francesco Gargaro said a suspect's blindfold was "illegal" to the Associated Press, saying that the officer in charge had "accidentally" done so.

The officer blindfolded Mr Natale-Hjorth to prevent him from seeing any documents related to the investigation, the commander said. The Italian news agency Ansa reported that the officer should be dismissed from the operational service.

Italian politicians and human rights groups expressed concern about the photograph, but Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was less compassionate.

"To those who complain I remind them that the only victim they have to cry for is a … Carabinieri … who died at work and was killed by people who, when they are guilty, deserve to spend their lives in prison. " Mr. Salvini tweeted .

What do we know about Rega's murder?

Allegedly, the two suspects were in the Trastevere area near the Vatican City trying to buy drugs.

According to Ansa, they allegedly stole a backpack from a suspected drug dealer who sold fake products to them.

Reportedly, they offered to bring it back to him if he paid them 100 USD (80 GBP, 90 EUR) and gave them one gram of cocaine.



Carabinieri officers and forensic scientists investigate a crime scene where Mario Cerciello Rega was killed

While waiting, they were approached by Rega and a colleague in a civilian operation for informing the police about the bag exchange, Ansa reported.

There was a fight in which Rega was stabbed several times. He was taken to hospital, where he died of his injuries.

Messrs Natale-Hjorth and Elder, charged with murder and attempted blackmail, appeared in court on Saturday.

Officials found a big knife in the hidden false ceiling of their hotel room. The couple was "ready to leave Italy" when it was found, police said.

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    Vice-Brigadier Rega had been married for only 43 days and returned from his honeymoon this week.

    "Mario was a gracious boy", Sandro Ottaviani, commander of the Roman Piazza Farnese Carabinieri, was quoted by Ansa.

    "He never stopped at work and was a figurehead for the entire district, he always helped everyone, volunteered and escorted sick people to Lourdes and Loreto, and every Tuesday he went to Termini to care for the needy



    Mario Cerciello Rega's wife touches her husband's coffin as he arrives at a church in Rome

    Mourning family members and friends paid tribute to Rega on Sunday at a church ceremony in Rome.

    His funeral takes place on Monday in his hometown of Somma Vesuviana, near Naples, in the same church where he was married.

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