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Gaza Militant Group Claims It Holds 2 Journalists


A previously unknown Palestinian militant group claimed Wednesday to be holding two journalists working for the FOX television network, which is headquartered in the United States. The two men who were abducted nine days ago, say they are in good health, and they appealed for assistance to gain their freedom.

FOX television correspondent Steve Centanni, and cameraman Olaf Wiig were seized by a group of armed men who intercepted their vehicle on August 14 while they were on assignment in the Gaza Strip.

Until now nothing has been heard from the two men, but on Wednesday, a previously unknown Palestinian militant group called the Holy Jihad Brigades released a videotape of the two, and issued a 72-hour deadline for the United States to release Muslim prisoners it holds. The group says the two journalists will face unspecified consequences if the demand is not met.

Speaking to a video camera and framed against a black backdrop the 60-year-old Centanni, a veteran U.S. journalist, said he was in good health and being treated well.

"We are in fairly good condition," he said. "We are alive and well and in fairly good health. We get lots of clean water and food everyday as well as access to the bathroom, showers, clean clothes and our captors are treating us well."

Both men appealed for help to be released. New Zealand-born Olaf Wiig, 36, asked for more attention to be paid to their case.

"If you could apply any political pressure on the local government here in Gaza and in the West Bank that would be most appreciated by both Steve and myself," he said.

The abduction has been condemned by both the Fatah political movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, and the Hamas Islamic militant group which governs the Palestinian territories. Palestinian security services have been carrying out an intensive search for the two men since they were seized.

Since the abduction, British and American journalists have been warned not to go to Gaza because of credible threats of additional kidnappings.

The kidnapping of journalists and other foreigners has occurred before in Gaza. Since August of last year when Israel disengaged from the area, there have been at least seven abductions. However, nearly all of those seized were released within hours or a few days, making the abduction of Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, the longest such kidnapping to date.

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