spanish abductee 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
The Spanish aid worker kidnapped in Gaza earlier Monday has been released by his captors, Palestinian security officials said.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said Roberto Vila, a 34-year-old aid worker with the Cooperation Assembly for Peace, a Spanish charity group, had been released unconditionally, and that the identity of his captors was still unknown.
Earlier Monday, Palestinian gunmen forced Vila into a yellow Skoda at the edge of the town of Khan Younis.
Celine Gagne, a fellow worker, said she and Vila were on their way out of Khan Younis after visiting a project for handicapped children when three or four men carrying Kalashnikov rifles stopped them.
"They asked me to stay behind," she said. The gunmen then forced Vila into their car and sped away, she said.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, condemned the kidnapping. "These groups that are behind these acts do not represent the Palestinian tradition, culture and religion," he said.
Fatah spokesman, Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, called for the immediate release of Vila. "The protection of our foreigner friends is a collective responsibility for all Palestinians," he said.
Palestinian gunmen have kidnapped a series of foreign journalists and aid workers in Gaza over the past two years, usually pressing the government for money or job guarantees. In most cases, the hostages were quickly released, and none of the hostages have been seriously harmed.
Last week, Palestinian gunmen kidnapped an Associated Press photographer in Gaza City, releasing him unharmed about 16 hours later.
The photographer, Emilio Morenatti, 37, was heading out of his apartment for an AP car, where Majed Hamdan, an AP driver and translator, was waiting. Hamdan said four gunmen grabbed his keys and phone and told him to turn away, pressing a gun to his head and threatening to harm him if he moved.
Soon after the kidnapping, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced that he would use all necessary means to secure Morenatti's release.
"The government is exerting its maximum efforts to guarantee the safe return of Emilio back to his family and his colleagues in the agency," Haniyeh said after meeting a delegation of AP representatives.
The kidnappers releasing Morenatti unharmed about 16 hours later.