Hamas Says BBC Reporter’s Abductors Identified

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The Hamas-led Palestinian government on Tuesday said it has identified the kidnappers of a BBC journalist abducted in Gaza by four masked gunmen, and hopes to free him soon.

The abduction Monday of BBC television correspondent Alan Johnston was the latest in a string of kidnappings of foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip.

Government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said the kidnapping hurt the Palestinian cause.

“The kidnappers have no nationalism, they want a cheap reward,” he said. “They are well-known, and we hope he (Johnston) will be found today.”

Hamad spoke at a protest in front of the BBC office, where 30 Palestinian reporters called for the journalist’s quick release.

Johnston, originally from Scotland, had been reporting from Gaza for the past three years. In a statement Tuesday, the BBC said it still had no confirmation of his whereabouts: “We are working closely with the Palestinian authorities and others to establish the facts surrounding the situation.”

In the past 18 months, more than a dozen foreign journalists and aid workers have been abducted in Gaza, an area plagued by crime, political violence and lawlessness. Most of the kidnappings have been carried out by gunmen seeking favors from the government or trying to settle scores with rivals.

In most cases, victims have been released unharmed within hours. An exception was the abduction of two Fox News employees last summer who were held for two weeks, prompting many foreign journalists to shy from entering Gaza.

The last foreigner taken hostage was Jaime Razuri, 50, a Peruvian photographer with the French news agency, who was abducted at gunpoint on Jan. 1 and released a week later. In October, AP photographer Emilio Morenatti was abducted in Gaza City and freed unharmed after 15 hours.

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