alan johnston is released

Posted on July 3, 2007

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After constantly tightening the screw, Hamas, which now runs Gaza, has managed to get a Palestinian militant group holding BBC reporter Alan Johnston to set him free.

The Army of God had held the reporter hostage since March 12, or for nearly four months.

He was reported to be back in the BBC’s Gaza office, in good health.

Television footage showed Johnston exiting a building and entering a white car while accompanied by armed men. Johnston was handed over to the Hamas authorities.

Hamas, which beat its Palestinian rival Fatah to gain control of Gaza in June, had made freeing Johnston a top priority, vowing to “use all means to secure his life and to free him”. Two weeks ago, hopes had been running high that Johnston would be immediately released, thanks to Hamas’ insistence.

But the members of the Army of God had said they were not complying and even threatened to kill Johnston if their demand for the release of several Palestinian prisoners, some of whom are held in the UK. The Army of God even heightened fears for Johnston’s life when they showed a video of the reporter with an explosives belt strapped onto him. They had also released other videos of Johnston.

The BBC reports that on Monday, Hamas security forces had detained members of the Army of God in Gaza.

“The arrests were carried out after all negotiation attempts… failed to free the abducted journalist,” the Hamas-run interior ministry said in a statement. “The arrests are targeting figures who were involved in the abduction of the journalist.”

The BBC has put an online petition on its website, urging people to sign it for Johnston’s freedom.

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