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BBC fears its Gaza correspondent abducted

Story Highlights

• BBC unable to contact Alan Johnston and is "concerned for his safety"
• Johnston's armored car was found abandoned on Gaza City street
• CPJ: Private individuals or groups appear to be behind suspected kidnapping
• Suspected abduction denounced by Palestinian Authority interior minister
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The British Broadcasting Corporation said Monday it believes its correspondent in Gaza may have been kidnapped.

"We are aware of reports concerning the whereabouts of BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston," the network said in a written statement. "We are currently unable to contact him and are concerned for his safety.

"We are trying to gather as much information as possible. Alan is a highly experienced and respected reporter. He has been based in Gaza for the past 3 years."

Johnston's armored car was found abandoned on a street in Gaza City, Palestinian security sources told CNN. The sources said he is the only one who drove that car, and they surmise that he was abducted on the way from his apartment to the BBC office in Gaza City.

Johnston had entered Gaza from Israel earlier in the day, the sources said.

Palestinian Interior Minister Said Sayam denounced the reported abduction and said the government will investigate.

"These are wicked hands aiming to disturb the Palestinian scene especially in these last moments as we discuss establishing a national unity government," Sayam said. "The security institutions will continue to investigate and bring the criminals to justice.

"This is a criminal act that is condemned by the Palestinian government and the Palestinian people."

The BBC is the only Western television network that has a permanent presence in Gaza, where it is common for kidnappers to target foreign journalists, as well as Western aid workers.

Group counts 14 kidnapped journalists since '04

Before Monday's apparent kidnapping, 14 journalists had been abducted by gunmen in Gaza since 2004 -- all released unharmed -- according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

According to CPJ, the kidnappings appear to be the work of "private individuals or groups seeking to exploit foreign hostages for political purposes or to use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of jailed relatives or to win government jobs."

"To CPJ's knowledge, none of those responsible for abducting members of the media have ever been apprehended or brought to justice for their actions," the committee said.

Following are recent kidnappings of journalists in Gaza:

  • Jaime Razuri, a photographer working for Agence France-Presse, was kidnapped January 1 and released a week later.
  • Associated Press photographer Emilio Morenatti, a Spaniard, was abducted by Palestinian gunmen on October 24 and freed later that day.
  • Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni and photographer Olaf Wiig were kidnapped August 14 and held for two weeks before being released.
  • CNN's Kevin Flower and Octavia Nasr contributed to this report.

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    "We are currently unable to contact him and are concerned for his safety," a BBC statement on Alan Johnston said.



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