Freed FOX News Reporter Details Conversion

Steve Centanni of Fox News is guided through a crowd shortly after being released by militants.

Steve Centanni of Fox News is guided through a crowd shortly after being released by militants at a Gaza City beach hotel on Aug. 27. Abid Katib/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Abid Katib/Getty Images

Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and freelance cameraman Olaf Wiig were kidnapped by masked gunmen in the Gaza Strip and held for two weeks before their release this past Sunday. Centanni is now back in the United States.

Abducted in Gaza by the Holy Jihad Brigades — a group that few had ever heard of — Centanni, 60, and Wiig, 36, were held at an unused garage. Their captors demanded that in return for the two journalists' freedom, the United States release all Muslims held in its prisons.

The ordeal ended after Palestinian authorities negotiated with the group, who freed the American Centanni and Wiig, of New Zealand, at a hotel.

Now back in the United States, Centanni says he believes that the kidnappers only served to hurt their cause. "This is a tragedy for the Palestinian people," he says, noting that many media organizations pulled their reporters from the area after the kidnapping.

"They need foreign journalists to cover the story in the Palestinian territories," he says, "especially Gaza Strip where things are spiraling out of control."

During the two weeks he was held by the militants, Centanni says, his captors kept him in "tolerable" conditions. They also did their best to educate Centanni and Wiig about Islam.

"They wanted us to know more about Islam," Centanni says, noting that books about the religion were all the prisoners were given to read during their captivity.

Before their release, Centanni and Wiig were recorded on videotape, saying that they had converted to Islam. He remains unsure of its legitimacy.

"Did I convert? I don't know enough about Islam to know if it was official, or recognized," he says.

Centanni is now back in the United States and talks with Madeleine Brand about the ordeal.

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