Gaza City : Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya revealed Wednesday that the kidnappers of Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent abducted in Gaza City on March 12, presented seven demands that “are not related to the Palestinian cause”.
“A group of youths, confused with ideological, political and religious beliefs, is holding BBC reporter Alan Johnston hostage,” Haniya said during a ceremony to launch the Gaza-based pro-Hamas Palestine daily.
He said that the kidnappers presented seven demands “unrelated to our Palestinian struggle,” adding the demands were then reduced to three and the government rejected them.
Haniya declined to reveal the identity of the kidnappers or give more details on their demands, adding “they are some young men that we don’t suspect have evil well, but were motivated that what they did was legal”.
A London-based Arabic daily reported Wednesday that the kidnappers of Johnston demanded the release of an Iraqi would-be suicide bomber jailed in Jordan after failing to blow herself up in a hotel in Amman.
Haniya also announced that Palestinian security agencies have set up a joint operation chamber to try freeing the journalist, but ruled out any use of force after a request from the British government that Johnston be kept safe.
“We suspended the security operation to free Johnston to maintain his safety, but we haven’t stopped efforts to continue through announced or underground channels to set him free,” said Haniya.
Johnston, 44, was the only foreign reporter to be based full-time in the Gaza Strip. He has become the longest-held foreign hostage in Gaza.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament Wednesday that his government was doing “everything it can” to secure Johnston’s freedom.
“There is no conceivable reason for him to be kept – he was a journalist doing his job out there,” Blair said.