Forces 'know' Gaza kidnappers
SECURITY forces know the identity of the kidnappers of the Scottish BBC journalist Alan Johnston, but are not going to use force to win his release, a Palestinian security chief said yesterday.
Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, said he was working "quietly but actively" to release the 44-year-old correspondent. On Monday, Mr Haniyeh's deputy, Azzam al-Ahmed, said the captors had called earlier in the day with new demands in exchange for his release.
Rashid Abu Shbak, who supervises several Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza, told the al-Ayyam daily that the volatile situation in the coastal territory did not permit a rescue raid.
"The security forces know the identity of the group that kidnapped Johnston," he said, adding that the British government had asked the president, Mahmoud Abbas, not to resort to force in releasing Johnston "so as not to endanger his life."
Johnston was seized on 12 March, making him the longest held foreign journalist in the increasingly lawless strip. Little has been reported about his whereabouts or condition.
Mr Ahmed said on Monday the kidnappers said in their most recent phone call that Mr Johnston is in good health.
Mr Haniyeh told a news conference yesterday that his office was working to free Johnston. "We are working quietly but actively on the issue of kidnapped journalist Alan Johnston. I have authorised somebody from my office to follow up this issue. He is communicating with several sides. I hope this will be fruitful in ending this issue."
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