BBC journalist Alan Johnston has now been a captive of the Army of Islam in the Gaza Strip for 102 days.
According to reports those holding Johnston are surrounded by Hamas and in fear for their lives.
The Jerusalem Post reported this morning details on the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston:
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Mumtaz Dughmush, the head of the Gaza clan that has been holding BBC correspondent Alan Johnston for the past 100 days, is refusing to release the journalist for fear that Hamas will kill him and most of his clan members.
Dughmush, who is known as Abu Muhammad, is negotiating Johnston’s release with Hamas leaders in return for assurances that he and his relatives will not be killed, sources close to Hamas told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
Since last Saturday, the sources said, dozens of Hamas militiamen have been surrounding the area where the Dughmush clan lives in Gaza City’s Sabra neighborhood. Hamas has warned that it will use force unless Johnston is freed by Monday.
“This man is a big thug,” a source said. “He is claiming to head a group calling itself the Army of Islam. In fact, this is just a group of murderers and thugs who want money and jobs.”
On Wednesday, a member of the clan, Munir Dughmush, was shot by unknown gunmen in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood. His killing raised fears that the clan might try to kidnap another foreigner.
The Foreign Press Association has advised its members to take precautionary measures when visiting the Gaza Strip for fear of reprisal.
A Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said Mumtaz Dughmush was very close to Fatah operative Muhammad Dahlan.
Fatah’s Muhammad Dahlan. (AP)
The official expressed fear that the Dughmush clan might kill Johnston at the request of Dahlan and other top Fatah leaders to prevent Hamas from taking credit for his release.
Debka File paints a different scenario where Al Qaeda is actually calling the shots on the kidnapping of Johnston:
Al Qaeda orders chief of its Palestinian wing not to free BBC reporter Alan Johnston or negotiate release of Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit
The order appeared in an official al Qaeda Web site early Tuesday, June 19. It explains why Army of Islam leader Mumtaz Durmush is holding onto the British captive at the risk of a clash with the 500 Hamas Executive Force surrounding his compound in Gaza City. Although Britain maintains no official ties with Hamas, the MI5 domestic intelligence chief asked the Palestinian Islamists to refrain from releasing Johnston by force for fear of his life.
In its statement, al Qaeda asks: Why is Hamas suddenly working for Johnston’s release when in Iraq and other places he would be executed? And how dare Hamas monopolize the Israeli Gilead Shalit and negotiate a deal with Israel?
DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report that the communiqué accuses Hamas of cutting its partners in the kidnap, a reference to Durmush and his Army of Islam, out of the picture.
Al Qaeda’s statement and its order to the group’s Palestinian minion makes the situation of the British and Israeli captives worse than before and brings it out in the open.
The developing situation does not sound like it will end without more violence and bloodshed. In the current Gaza climate, the odds are against it.
Let’s pray for his safe return
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