GAZA CITY (AFP) – Palestinian security services in Gaza were on Wednesday checking information that could lead to the whereabouts of a BBC correspondent who was abducted two days ago, officials said.
Alan Johnston, 44, was forced from his car by gunmen on Monday while driving home from his Gaza office, the latest in a spate of abductions foreigners in the lawless territory.
“Security services are continuing their search and investigation to find the journalist. We have certain information that needs to be verified,” a security source told AFP.
“The culprits have not yet been identified but efforts are continuing with the aim of freeing the journalist as soon as possible,” the source said.
Johnston, whose previous postings have included Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, had reported for the BBC from Gaza for the past three years, one of the few Western reporters to be based in the territory.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and the Islamist Hamas movement have condemned the kidnapping and have ordered security services to secure his release as quickly as possible.
Abductions of foreigners have become increasingly common in the impoverished Gaza Strip, with about 20 such cases in the past year.
Kidnappers normally use the hostages as bargaining chips to gain concessions from the Palestinian Authority, and they have all been released unharmed.
The last journalist snatched in Gaza City was Peruvian AFP photographer Jaime Razuri, who was seized on January 1 and released unharmed seven days later.
Home to 1.4 million people, the Gaza Strip has spent the last year wracked by lethal Palestinian infighting, a punishing Western aid boycott that has sent the economy into a tailspin and deadly Israeli military operations.