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Following another attempt to bring attention to a cause, a group of Palestinian gunmen released an Egyptian diplomat Saturday, two days after kidnapping him in the Gaza Strip.
The previously unknown group, the Ahrar Brigades, originally said that Egypt's military attach , Hussam al-Musali, would be released if all Palestinians held in Egyptian jails were released within 48 hours. Hamas expressed "extreme indignation" over the kidnapping. It and other Palestinian groups condemned the kidnapping, which they said threatened relations between Palestinians and Egypt.
Egypt has increasingly played an important function in mediating between Palestinians and Israelis and between Palestinian factions. That role has gained increased prominence since Hamas' landslide win in the Palestinian legislative elections in January.
Over the last two weeks, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have been traveling to Cairo and back.
Last week, Hamas leaders such as Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh met with high-ranking Egyptian government officials in Cairo to discuss how to compose the future Palestinian cabinet, how to solve the rift with the defeated Fatah party, and who should control the Preventative Security Forces.
Egypt also provided the Palestinian Authority with security experts who were training Palestinian security forces in Gaza ahead of Israel's withdrawal in August and until now.
However, following the increasing lawlessness in the Gaza Strip, Egyptian officials decided to pull out their people so as not to put them at risk. Nevertheless, Musali was kidnapped on his way to work before the decision could be implemented.
Over the past year, gunmen in Gaza kidnapped numerous foreigners, but Musali was the first diplomat. Usually the goal of the kidnapping is to press the authorities for jobs, money or prisoner releases. The hostages are usually released within hours or days.