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Kidnapped Gaza BBC Correspondent in New Video


Kidnapped BBC Gaza Correspondent Alan Johnston appeared in a new video, released by his captors. VOA's Jim Teeple has details from our Jerusalem Bureau.

The video shows Johnston wearing what he says is an explosives belt, of the type worn by suicide bombers. He warns against any rescue attempt, saying his captors will detonate the belt, if one is made.

"As you can see I have been dressed in what is an explosive belt which the kidnappers say will be detonated, if there is any attempt to storm this area," Johnston said. "They say they are ready to turn the hideout into what they describe as a death zone, if there is any attempt to free me by force."

The BBC issued a statement Monday, calling the video distressing for Johnston's family and his colleagues, asking those holding him to release him immediately.

Johnston was abducted on March 12 and nothing was heard from him until a video was released on June First by a little known militant group called Jayash al-Islam. The group demanded the release of a radical Muslim cleric, Abu Qatada al-Filistini, who is in British custody, suspected of having links to al-Qaida.

The group is believed to be headed by a member of the Dogmush family, a powerful Gaza clan long involved in smuggling and other criminal activities in the region.

Last week, after Hamas Islamic militants took control of the Gaza Strip, defeating Fatah forces, Hamas leaders hinted Johnston would be released soon. However, Hamas leaders also say those holding Johnston are demanding guarantees they will face no reprisals for the kidnapping. In his remarks, Monday, Johnston hinted that a resolution to his ordeal might come soon.

"It seems the answer is to return to negotiations, which I am told are very close to achieving a deal," Johnston said.

Based in the Gaza Strip for three years, Alan Johnston was the only foreign correspondent permanently posted there. A number of other journalists and aid workers have also been abducted in Gaza by various Palestinian factions, but Johnston's kidnapping has been by far the longest.

More than 170,000 people from around the world have signed a petition on the BBC web site calling for his immediate release.

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