GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, AP – Masked Palestinian gunmen ambushed a car carrying a Fox News crew in Gaza City on Monday and kidnapped two journalists, including one American, witnesses and Fox said.
“We can confirm that two of our people were taken against their will in Gaza,” Fox News said in a statement.
A Fox employee in Gaza, who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to release information about the incident, said American reporter Steve Centanni and New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig were kidnapped.
The men, along with a bodyguard, were parked near the headquarters of the Palestinian security services when two trucks filled with masked gunmen pulled up and boxed them in, the Fox employee said. The gunmen took the two men out of their sports utility vehicle, which was marked “TV,” and drove away, he said.
Major militant groups in Gaza denied any connection to the incident; there was no immediate word of any demands made.
However, Wiig’s wife Anita McNaught said Fox representatives had told her negotiations for their release were already under way.
“There will be people working through the Palestinian Authority, through the authorities in Gaza … but Fox News are vastly experienced on the ground there, so they have all the contacts they need,” said McNaught, who is a BBC World television presenter.
McNaught, who is currently in Syria, told New Zealand’s National Radio she intends to come to the area soon to help secure the release of the two men.
Also, New Zealand was sending a diplomatic team to the area, said Rosie Patterson, head of consular services at New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry. New Zealand has no representation in the immediate area, and currently is working through British diplomats, she said.
The government was “very concerned” for the safety of Wiig, Prime Minister Helen Clark said in brief comments in New Zealand.
Security officials put police across Gaza on alert and set up roadblocks to find the gunmen and free the reporters, said Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal.
The Committee to Protect Journalists called for the men to be freed.
“We are gravely concerned about our colleagues’ safety and call for their immediate and unconditional release,” said executive director Joel Simon. “These are well established journalists who are not participants in the conflict. They should be treated accordingly and freed.”
Several foreigners have been kidnapped in Gaza in recent months with their abductors demanding jobs from the Palestinian Authority or the release of people being held in Palestinian jails. All those kidnapped have been released within hours without harm.