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
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
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.