GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, (AP) – The Palestinian prime minister has sent a series of letters to the kidnappers of a captured British journalist demanding his release, a top aide said Wednesday, claiming an attempt to apply “moral pressure.”
The letters from Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh have sought to “clarify to these people that this issue doesn’t serve the interest of our people, and the Muslims,” said the aide, Ahmed Youssef.
The comments indicated that negotiations are under way to win the release of British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent Alan Johnston, who was kidnapped on March 12. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated Wednesday that security forces know Johnston’s whereabouts, and suggested they were holding off on a rescue raid for fear of harming the captive. “We know where the journalist is, and we want to preserve his life and we want to save him, and this needs time,” Abbas was quoted as saying by the official Wafa news agency.
“We are passing through a sensitive time,” said Youssef. “We are trying to put some moral pressure on them.”
Youssef said the kidnappers had not demanded any ransom and suggested they were a militant Muslim group.
“Money is not the issue. The issue is an incorrect understanding of Islam, how to deal with foreigners in general, an incorrect understanding of Islam among some,” he said.
Youssef declined to discuss the kidnappers’ identities or ideology. “Any discussions about it will harm this issue,” he said.
Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah Party make up the joint Palestinian unity government.
The BBC said it could not comment on the latest comments by officials.
“We continue to be told by Palestinian authorities that they are doing everything they can to release Alan,” said Simon Wilson, editor of the news organization’s Middle East bureau.
Several foreign journalists have been kidnapped over the past two years in Gaza, but most cases have ended within a day or two. No one has been charged or arrested in previous kidnappings.
Johnston’s captivity has been by far the longest. The 44-year-old was seized by Palestinian gunmen on March 12, and little has been reported about his whereabouts or condition.
A little-known group claimed to have killed Johnston in April, but provided no evidence of their claim. Top officials have since said the kidnappers have confirmed that Johnston remains in good health.