BBC reporter Johnston strapped to bomb vest

Posted on June 25, 2007

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Things have taken a decidedly worse turn for abducted BBC reporter Alan Johnston today, as his captors released a video of him with an explosives vest strapped to him.

The BBC showed a new video tape that is purportedly released by Johnston’s captors, a little-known Gaza-based group known as the Army of Islam.

“The situation now is very serious. As you can see I have been dressed in what is an explosive belt, which the kidnappers say will be detonated if there was any attempt to storm this area,” Johnston said in the tape. “Captors tell me that very promising negotiations were ruined when the Hamas movement and the British government decided to press for a military solution to this kidnapping.”

The Washington Post said the newest developments could be the sign of a split between the Dagmoush clan, which controls the Army of Islam, and the Islamic gunmen holding Johnston. Part of the complications also involve the fear that Hamas, which now runs Gaza after winning a bloody showdown against Fatah, will move against the Dagmoush clan after Johnston’s release.

Hamas has made it a priority to release Johnston after it came to power. Hopes had raised for Johnston’s safe return soon, as the Hamas leadership had vowed to free him, and also prevent other foreign journalists from being held against their wills.

The Army of Islam had demanded the release of prisoners, such as Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-born Muslim cleric held in the UK on suspicion of being linked to al-Qaeda.

Johnston has been in captivity for over 100 days, after he was snatched in the middle of March in Gaza City.

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