Palestinian Government hopes to free kidnapped BBC reporter

The Hamas-led Palestinian government says it had identified the kidnappers of a BBC journalist and hoped to free him soon.

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was taken from his car by four masked gunmen in Gaza City on Monday.

The abduction was the latest in a string of kidnappings of foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip.

Government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said the kidnapping hurt the Palestinian cause.

"The kidnappers have no nationalism, they want a cheap reward," he said.

"They are well-known, and we hope he (Johnston) will be found today."

Mr Hamad spoke at a protest in front of the BBC office, where 30 Palestinian reporters called for the journalist's quick release.

The protesters held up signs, and some taped their mouths shut as they criticised the government for not immediately condemning the kidnapping.

Johnston, originally from Argyll had been reporting from Gaza for the past three years. In a statement on Tuesday, the BBC said it still had no confirmation of his whereabouts. "We are working closely with the Palestinian authorities and others to establish the facts surrounding the situation," the statement read. "We are keeping Alan's family fully informed of developments."

In the past 18 months, more than a dozen foreign journalists and aid workers have been abducted in Gaza, an area plagued by crime, political violence and lawlessness. Most of the kidnappings have been carried out by gunmen seeking favours from the government or trying to settle scores with rivals.

In most cases, victims have been released unharmed within hours. An exception was the abduction of two Fox News employees last summer who were held for two weeks, prompting many foreign journalists to shy from entering Gaza.

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