Hamas warns against harming reporter

Earlier, Johnston's kidnappers identified; PA working "quietly" to free reporter.

May 1, 2007 14:38
1 minute read.
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Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh warned the abductors of BBC journalist Alan Johnston that there would be serious consequences if the reporter came to harm, Israel Radio reported on Wednesday morning. Palestinian security forces know the identity of the kidnappers of the British reporter, but are not going to use force to win his release, a Palestinian security chief said in an interview published Tuesday. Haniyeh, meanwhile, said he is working "quietly but actively" to release the 44-year old BBC correspondent. On Monday, PA officials reported that Haniyeh was working "quietly but actively" to free Johnston, who was kidnapped in March. Haniyeh's deputy, Azzam al-Ahmed, said the captors had called earlier in the day with new demands in exchange for his release. Rashid Abu Shbak, who supervises several Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza, told the Al Ayyam daily that the volatile situation in the coastal territory didn't permit a rescue raid. "The security forces know the identity of the group that kidnapped Johnston," he said, adding that the British government had asked PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas not to resort to force in releasing Johnston "so as not to endanger his life." Johnston was seized March 12, making him the longest-held foreign journalist in the increasingly lawless strip. Little has been reported about his whereabouts or condition. A little known group claimed to have killed Johnston, but provided no evidence of their claim. Al-Ahmed said Monday the kidnappers said in their most recent phone call that Johnston is in good health. Haniyeh told a news conference Tuesday that his office was working to free Johnston. "We are working quietly but actively on the issue of kidnapped journalist Alan Johnston. I have authorized somebody from my office to follow up this issue. He is communicating with several sides. I hope this will be fruitful in ending this issue," Haniyeh said. BBC officials have previously denied that the abductors have made any demands. A dozen journalists and foreign workers have been kidnapped in Gaza in the past 18 months, but most of them were released within hours unharmed. No abductors were ever charged or tried for the kidnappings.

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