'Fox newsmen held by Rogue Fatah men'

Hamas: Holy Jihad Brigades demands release of Muslim prisoners from US jails.

August 24, 2006 23:58
2 minute read.
kidnapped fox news correspondent 298.88

kidnapped fox journalist. (photo credit: )

The two Fox News employees kidnapped in the Gaza Strip recently are being held by one of Fatah's militias, Palestinian Authority security sources and Hamas activists told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. On Wednesday, a hitherto unknown group calling itself the Holy Jihad Brigades claimed responsibility for the abduction and demanded that Muslim prisoners in US jails be freed within 72 hours. The kidnappers released a video showing correspondent Steve Centanni of Washington DC and cameraman Olaf Wiig of New Zealand dressed in training suits and sitting cross-legged on the floor inside a dark apartment. The two were kidnapped as they were waiting outside one of the offices of the PA security forces in Gaza City. Until Wednesday, no group had claimed responsibility, prompting many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to speculate that the kidnapping was not politically-motivated. However, the announcement by the Holy Jihad Brigades surprised most Palestinian factions, especially the Hamas government, which has strongly denied any connection to the abduction. Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip have also denied responsibility, saying they did not believe that their followers were holding the two journalists. But some Hamas activists in Gaza City said they were convinced that one of Fatah's armed groups was holding the two. "Fatah has many armed groups in the Gaza Strip," said a senior Hamas activist. "Some of these groups operate independently and are not in touch with their political leaders. Our sources have told us that the two foreign journalists are in their hands." Another top Hamas activist told the Post that his movement's investigations have shown that the two journalists were initially kidnapped by members of one of the PA's security forces. "The kidnappers, who wanted to put pressure on the Palestinian leadership to pay them their salaries, later handed the two over to Fatah gunmen," he said. "They are now being held in one of the refugee camps near Gaza City." PA security sources said they did not rule out the possibility that Fatah gunmen were holding the two journalists. "There are many rumors in the Gaza Strip and we are checking them," the sources said. "In the past, we've had several cases where Fatah-affiliated gunmen and disgruntled security officers kidnapped foreigners." The kidnapping of the Fox News journalists has drawn sharp criticism from many Palestinians, who have repeatedly urged the kidnappers to release them immediately. On Thursday, representatives of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails issued an urgent appeal to the kidnappers to release the two. Also on Thursday, PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh condemned the abduction and called for the pair's immediate release. "My government rejects the method of kidnapping," he said. "This is in violation of our people's values and traditions." He said that he had instructed the PA security forces in the Gaza Strip from day one to do their utmost to secure their release. Haniyeh stressed that the various Palestinian factions were not interested in "exporting" their conflict with Israel to a third party.

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