GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, (AP)- A previously unknown Palestinian group released the first video Wednesday of two kidnapped Fox News journalists and demanded that Muslim prisoners in U.S. jails be released within 72 hours in exchange for the men, a Palestinian news agency reported.
In the video, Steve Centanni, 60, of the San Francisco area, and cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, of New Zealand, appeared to be in good health, seated on the floor in sweat suits against a black background. No armed men were shown.
“Our captors are treating us well,” Centanni said, adding that they had access to clean water, showers, bathrooms, food and clothing.
“So, just want to let you know I am here and alive and give my love to my family and friends and ask to do anything you can to try to help us get out of here,” he added.
Wiig called for help to get them freed.
“If you could apply any pressure on the local government here in Gaza and the West Bank, that would be much appreciated by Steve and myself,” Wiig said.
It was the first time Centanni and Wiig have been seen since they were kidnapped Aug. 14 near the Palestinian security services headquarters in Gaza City. The video was shown to an Associated Press correspondent in Gaza and also was broadcast by Al-Jazeera.
Although Palestinian militant groups have often seized foreigners, including members of the media, this is the longest any have been held.
The news agency, Ramattan, reported that the Palestinian group, the Holy Jihad Brigades, had demanded in a statement that Muslim prisoners in U.S. jails be released within three days in exchange for Centanni and Wiig. The group did not say what would happen if the deadline passed unanswered, Ramattan reported.
“We are going to exchange the Muslim female and male prisoners in American jails in return for the prisoners that we have. We are going to give you 72 hours beginning midnight tonight to take your decision,” Ramattan quoted the statement as saying.
“If you implement and meet our condition, we will fulfill our promise. If not, wait, and we are going to wait,” the statement said.
Earlier, Ramattan said the kidnappers had demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners.
More than two dozen foreigners have been seized in the past two years, and they usually follow a clear pattern. Militants boast of their success within hours, followed by demands for jobs or freedom for jailed relatives, then brief negotiations and finally the release of those abducted, often the same day.
But this kidnapping has not followed that pattern. Until Wednesday, no group had claimed responsibility, and the whereabouts of the Fox News journalists remained a mystery despite emotional appeals from family members.
Palestinian government officials, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, have called for the release of Centanni and Wiig.