Reporter's captors want $5m. ransom

Palestinian journalists beaten while protesting Alan Johnston's abduction.

April 17, 2007 11:13
1 minute read.
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The kidnappers of BBC reporter Alan Johnston are demanding $5 million for his release, the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper reported on Tuesday morning. The family of the British journalist, kidnapped in the Gaza Strip on March 12, pleaded Monday for his captors to "end this ordeal" following unconfirmed reports he had been killed. The demand for ransom contradicts reports circulated Sunday that Johnston had been executed, which Palestinian Authority security officials said they could neither confirm nor deny. The Tawheed and Jihad Brigades in Palestine had previously announced in a leaflet distributed in the Gaza Strip that its members had killed Johnston because of Israel's refusal to release Palestinian prisoners. The group, which PA security officials said was linked to al-Qaida, promised to release a video showing the execution of Johnston, 44, who was kidnapped in Gaza City more than a month ago. Meanwhile, security guards at the Palestinian Authority parliament on Tuesday scuffled with a crowd of Palestinian journalists who were demonstrating in support of Johnston, pushing back reporters and beating two of them with rifle butts. About 200 journalists had gathered outside the building, seeking information about Johnston. When journalists tried to enter parliament to talk to lawmakers about the case, the guards violently pushed them back and barred them from entering. They journalists called on lawmakers to come out of the building to talk to them. Some held signs and photos that said "Free Alan." "We came to ask those lawmakers about the facts and the truth on the fate of our kidnapped colleague," said Saadi Alkasaef, an activist in the local journalists' union. "It's more than a month right now and we are concerned for Alan's life after the statement released two days ago. We came peacefully, but we are being assaulted now."

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