Kidnapped BBC Correspondent Released after 4 Months in Captivity

World | July 4, 2007, Wednesday // 00:00

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, who was abducted in Gaza almost four months ago, has been released by kidnappers early on Wednesday.

Mr Johnston was handed over to officials of the Hamas administration after leaving a building accompanied by several armed men, a TV footage showed.

The freed journalist said it was "fantastic" to be free after an "appalling experience" - "the worst in his life".

Later the reporter appeared at a press conference beside the leader Ismail Haniya and thanked everyone who had done their best for helping his release.

Johnston said he was not tortured during captivity but he fell ill from the food he was served.

Rallies were staged all over the world calling for Mr Johnston's speedy release. There has been spread an online petition, which was signed by more than 200,000 people.

Hamas' military wing had said it would actively work towards releasing the BBC reporter and had even warned his kidnappers it was prepared to use force.

The responsibility for the abduction was taken by a Palestinian group, called Army of Islam, which released twice videos that showed Mr Johnston first saying he feels good and then girded with an explosive belt.

The captors' demands were for releasing of Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-born Islamic cleric, who is supposed to have close links to al-Qaeda and is currently held by the UK government.

Alan Johnston was abducted from his car by four masked gunmen in Gaza about 3 months ago.

As he was being taken, the journalist threw a business card on the street that identified him as Alan Johnston of the BBC.

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