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After coerced conversion, Fox journalists freed
OhmyNews brief (qiang)     Print Article 
Published 2006-08-28 00:40 (KST)   
Two Fox News journalists kidnapped in Gaza City were freed after nearly two weeks in captivity.

American reporter Steve Centanni, 60, and cameraman Olaf Wiig, 35, were released at Gaza City's Beach Hotel Sunday, where they were rushed upstairs before appearing later at the hotel with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Wiig's wife, former BBC presenter Anita McNaught, who had made several public appeals for the pair's release, including to Prime Minister Haniyeh himself in person.

A video released earlier showed the two making various pronouncement including an apparent statement of conversion by Centanni to Islam. He explained after his release that he felt coerced into making the statements, as his captors wielded firearms.

A previously unknown group calling itself the "Holy Jihad Brigades" had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but senior Palestinian security officials said the name was merely a front for local militants whose identities were known to Palestinian authorities. The group had demanded the release of unspecified Muslim prisoners within 72 hours, a demand the U.S. officially rejected. The deadline passed before news of the release became available.

At a press conference with the journalists at the hotel, Haniyeh confirmed the kidnappers were from Gaza and not members of al-Qaida, as had been claimed.

"The kidnappers have no link to al-Qaida or any other organization or faction," Haniyeh said. "Al-Qaida as an organization does not exist in the Gaza Strip."

Centanni expressed his wish that journalists continue to report from the area. "I hope that this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover the story because the Palestinian people are very beautiful and kind hearted," he said. "The world needs to know more about them. Don't be discouraged."

Wiig echoed those sentiments, saying, "My biggest concern really is that as a result of what happened to us foreign journalists will be discouraged from coming to tell the story and that would be a great tragedy for the people of Palestine."
©2006 OhmyNews

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