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(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian security forces were negotiating Thursday with gunmen who kidnapped a British human rights worker and her parents, a security official said, the latest in a wave of kidnappings of foreigners in the chaotic Gaza Strip.
The woman was identified as Kate Burton, 25, a worker with the Al Mezan human rights group in Gaza, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa. Her parents were kidnapped with her, Abu Khoussa said.
"This is part of a new fad of kidnapping for extortion and seeking jobs," Abu Khoussa said.
The abduction Wednesday was the latest of several kidnappings of foreigners that have undermined Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' attempts to establish order in Gaza following Israel's withdrawal this summer.
In most cases, the kidnappers have sought jobs in the Palestinian security forces, the release of imprisoned relatives or other personal matters. In all cases, the victims have been released safely.
Abbas' critics have accused him of giving in to kidnappers' demands, thereby encouraging more abductions.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's abduction of Burton and her parents in the southern Gaza town of Rafah.
Mezan officials confirmed that Burton has worked for the agency for four months, handling human rights and fund-raising responsibilities. They said she was on vacation with her parents at the time of the abduction.
"She's a good woman," said Jamil Sarhan, Mezan's executive director.
"This defames the Palestinian case and the Palestinian national struggle," Sarhan said. "We have contacted all official Palestinian armed organizations, who all condemned this and are helping us search for her from door to door."
A Palestinian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, said negotiations were ongoing but said he did not know when the captives would be released.
Abu Khoussa would not confirm that negotiations were taking place.
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