Hamas leader claim he saw kidnapped BBC correspondent on video with bomb belt - kidnappers will "slit throat of journalist"
June 24, 2007
MIM: Hamas leader Haniyah was able to see a video of the kidnapped journalist together with others and feign ignorance about who is holding him or where he can be found. The video was also posted on the web.
Kidnapped BBC reporter shown in bomb belt: Hamasby Sakher Abu El Oun BBC journalist Alan Johnston has appeared in a video wearing a suicide bomb belt, according to dismissed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya who demanded an end to his 104-day captivity on Sunday. "We have seen a video cassette where he wears an orange jacket and now they (the kidnappers) showed him with an explosives belt," Haniya said in a speech to his supporters, adding: "This must stop, it cannot continue like this." Haniya did not explain where or when he had seen the video. "We won't allow it to continue," Haniya said in the Islamist Hamas's Gaza bastion where it routed security forces loyal to president Mahmud Abbas earlier this month. So far only one video has been publicly released by the previously unknown radical Islamist group holding Johnston in which the reporter says he has been treated well. Hamas earlier accused the Palestinian leadership of sabotaging efforts to free Johnston. "Efforts are being made to torpedo the great achievements of Hamas in restoring calm to the streets of Gaza and this has repercussions for efforts to free the journalist Johnston," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. "Some people are trying to block this issue despite the fact that we were on the point of resolving it." Hamas raised hopes after its capture of the Gaza Strip on June 15 that Johnston, who spent his 45th birthday in captivity, might be released quickly. Abu Zuhri accused unidentified senior officials from the Palestinian Authority headed by Abbas of working for the continuation of Johnston's captivity from their base in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "There have been contacts though special channels from Ramallah with the kidnappers that we have been able to intercept to prevent the release," he said. But Abbas's intelligence chief Tawfiq al-Tirawi insisted the Palestinian leadership were as determined as anyone else to see the BBC correspondent's release. "If what Hamas is saying is true, it means they have been tapping telephone conversations and I challenge them to reveal the names of those they purport to have overheard," Tirawi told a news conference in Ramallah. "Our main aim is to free Alan because it is not in our traditions to capture journalists, particularly this one who has helped the Palestinian cause," he said. There has been no word on the journalist's condition since the fringe extremist group claiming his abduction released an undated video on June 1, showing a pale Johnston saying he had been well treated and well fed. He was the only Western journalist still permanently based in the increasingly lawless territory when he was seized on March 12 in an operation claimed by the Army of Islam. Johnston, an experienced reporter, had been based in Gaza for three years where a string of other foreign kidnappings have been resolved within days. The Army of Islam is demanding the release of Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-born cleric once labelled Al-Qaeda's spiritual leader in Europe, who is being held in Britain. "If we do not reach an agreement and the situation worsens for us, we will have to turn to God and have no choice but to slit the throat of the journalist," a masked spokesman told reporters in Gaza on June 17. Johnston's plight has sparked rallies and messages of support from all over the world and an online petition calling for his release has been signed by more than 170,000 people.