Wednesday, July 04, 2007

BBC's Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston released

From the BBC:

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has been released by kidnappers in Gaza after nearly four months in captivity.

He said it was "fantastic" to be free after an "appalling experience". TV footage showed Mr Johnston, 45, leaving a building accompanied by armed men.

He later appeared beside Hamas leader Ismail Haniya and thanked everyone who had worked for his release.

Rallies worldwide had called for Mr Johnston's release. An online petition was signed by some 200,000 people.

The BBC reporter was handed over to officials of the Hamas administration in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Gunmen from the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement overran Gaza last month, expelling their rivals from the Fatah faction.

Mr Johnston was abducted on 12 March by the Army of Islam, a shadowy militant group dominated by Gaza's powerful Dugmush clan. more

NBC adds:

There was no immediate comment from Johnston’s captors, the Army of Islam.

Hamas had demanded Johnston’s freedom since it violently seized control of Gaza last month, in an apparent bid to curry favor with the West.

On Tuesday, Hamas gunmen took positions around the Army of Islam’s stronghold, stepping up the pressure to secure his release.

Members of Hamas’ 6,000-person militia moved onto rooftops of high-rise buildings and deployed gunmen in streets of the Gaza City neighborhood inhabited by the Doghmush clan, the large, heavily armed family that leads the Army of Islam.

The same group was involved in the capture of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was seized more than a year ago in a raid on an Israeli army post near Gaza. full article

While I'd love to say something positive about Hammas' actions. I'm left wondering why they opted to "rescue" Mr. Johnston. Given their history its hard to tell the difference between an olive branch and a PR stunt and harder still to believe that an olive branch wouldn't bear poisonous fruit.