Hamas TV: Kidnapped BBC reporter freed

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Kidnapped British reporter Alan Johnston has been released after nearly four months in captivity, Hamas said Wednesday. Looking pale and frail, the BBC correspondent told The Associated Press he was “OK.”

Television footage showed Johnston emerging from a building in Gaza surrounded by a throng of armed Palestinian men and escorted into a waiting car while cameras flashed around him.

Shortly after word of his release, the Islamic militant group said he was in the custody of its military wing and meeting with deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.

The release was announced by the Islamic militant group’s TV and confirmed in a text message from Hamas to The Associated Press.

The report did not explain how the reporter was freed or provide any other details.

Hamas had demanded Johnston’s freedom since it violently seized control of Gaza last month, in an apparent bid to gain favor with the West.

On Tuesday, Hamas gunmen took positions around the stronghold of the shadowy group holding Johnston, stepping up the pressure to secure his release.

Johnston was kidnapped from a Gaza City street on March 12, spending far more time in captivity than any Western journalist abducted in Gaza. Hamas had said it knew where to find him, but has not raided the hideout for fear he would come to harm.

AP-ES-07-03-07 2134EDT

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