Source AP ©

Kidnapped British journalist Alan Johnston alive and can be released

Kidnapped British journalist Alan Johnston is alive and well, and could soon be released.

Speaking at literary festival in Wales late Saturday, Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said he knew the group holding the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Gaza correspondent and was personally involved in negotiations to free him.

"I know that he is well and healthy, and in a good situation. No one has tried to harm him or hurt him," Hamad said.

"I think there are continuous efforts to release him," he said. "We hope we can do it very, very soon."

Johnston, 45, was kidnapped March 12 in Gaza City by Palestinian gunmen. His disappearance is the longest of any Western journalist kidnapped in Gaza and has sparked numerous protests and solidarity marches in London and the Palestinian territories.

Hamad said he had "a lot" of information about the situation, but was not authorized to elaborate, saying efforts to release him are reaching a crucial stage and a breakthrough could be made soon.

Hamad said a "small group" had kidnapped Johnston, and that he knows their identity.

"I have my own channels to talk to these people," he said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a renewed call for Johnston's release during a meeting in Gaza on Sunday.

"It is necessary to release him without conditions, so he (Johnston) can return safely to his parents," he said.

Palestinian security officials have said they believe the group holding Johnston is a shadowy movement called the Army of Islam.

The group released a 20-minute recording recently, which showed a picture of Johnston's press card and demanded the release of Abu Qatada a radical Islamist held in a British jail.

The British government said it would not do any deals to secure the journalist's release.

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