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Captive Reporter Wearing Explosive Vest on Video

BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston appears wearing a body belt he said contained explosives.

BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston appears wearing a body belt, which he said contained explosives, in this image taken from a short video released by his kidnappers on June 25, 2007. Abid Katib/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Abid Katib/Getty Images

A group of Islamic militants on Monday posted a video tape showing a BBC correspondent wearing a vest packed with explosives on an Internet Web site.

Alan Johnston can be seen with a bulky, white device wrapped around his chest and held in place by straps that extend over his shoulders. He says it is an explosives belt that his captors say they will detonate if the British government and Hamas use force to free him.

Johnston was snatched from a street in Gaza on March 12 by militants with the Army of Islam. According to the BBC, he was the only Western reporter permanently based in Gaza.

Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, said last week that he is working to see that Johnston is freed quickly.

But his actions and those of the British government may have resulted in the escalation of the threat against Johnston.

"Captors tell me that very promising negotiations were ruined when the Hamas movement and the British government decided to press for a military solution to this kidnapping, and the situation is now very serious," Johnston said in the video.

Johnston's Islamic captors have demanded the release of Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-born Islamic cleric suspected of being linked to al-Qaeda, who is held by the British government.

BBC officials are continuing to appeal for Johnston's release. "We ask those holding Alan to avoid him being harmed by releasing him immediately," said a statement from the British network. "We are keeping his family fully informed and offering them our continued support."

Graham Johnston, the journalist's father, said the family is very concerned by the video and appealed for his son's release. "Our thoughts, of course, are with Alan in his present predicament," he said. "We earnestly request his abductors to release Alan, unharmed in any way."

The BBC posted a transcript of the one minute, 42 second video on the network's Web site.

From NPR, The Associated Press and BBC reports.



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