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BBC’s Johnston freed

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BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was freed after almost four months of captivity in Gaza.

Hamas officials secured the release of Johnston early Wednesday after weeks of negotiations with his captors, a little-known Palestinian militia known as the Army of Islam. It was not immediately known whether a ransom was paid.

Johnston, 45, told reporters that while he had been mostly treated well while hostage, there were occasional threats on his life. He said he did not expect to return to the Gaza Strip soon. Before his March 12 kidnapping, Johnston had been the only Western correspondent based full-time in the territory.

Hamas said it hoped that by freeing the reporter it could improve its ties with the West. The rival Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of a media stunt.

Israeli officials welcomed Johnston’s release and voiced hope for a similar breakthrough in efforts to recover Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier abducted to Gaza last year by gunmen from Hamas, the Army of Islam and another Palestinian faction. Two other Israeli soldiers were abducted by Hezbollah several days later and taken to Lebanon.

“The justifiable
public outrage at Mr. Johnston’s kidnapping kept his ordeal in the public eye,” the Board of Deputies of British Jews said in a statement. “Regrettably, the whereabouts and condition of these three young Israelis is far
from clear due to the denial of access to them of the Red Cross or similar
international agencies by their kidnappers.”

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