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Abducted CNN producer released

Riad Ali
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Gunmen kidnapped CNN producer Riad Ali from a company van in Gaza.

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- CNN Producer Riad Ali, who was abducted at gunpoint a day earlier, was released Tuesday and was in the custody of Palestinian police.

Shortly before his release, a videotape surfaced in which Ali explained he was being held by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant offshoot of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

On the tape, Ali explained in Arabic that he is a Druze Arab and that his father and other members of his family have served in the Israeli military.

No demands were made on the tape.

The Druze Arabs are an Arabic-speaking, non-Jewish minority in Israel. Many Druze have served in the Israeli military.

On the video, which was recorded while he was in the custody of his abductors, Ali called for the Druze not to serve in the Israeli military, saying the cause of the Druze is the same as that of Palestinians.

Ali was abducted Monday in Gaza City when gunmen pulled in front of a taxi carrying him and two CNN colleagues, ordered him out of the vehicle and then drove away.

CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman said he, Ali and CNN photographer Mary Rogers had left their Gaza office in a taxi when a white Peugeot pulled in front of them, blocking their way.

Wedeman said a man in his early 20s and dressed in civilian clothes emerged from the car, stuck a revolver through the taxi window and "said to me in Arabic, 'Which one of you is Riad?'"

"We were dumbstruck at first, but Riad then said, 'I am Riad.' And then other men got out of the car that had pulled in front of us and they were carrying AK-47 assault rifles, and they said to Riad, 'Get out of the car,'" Wedeman said. He said Ali was forced into the back of the Peugeot, which then drove away.

No one was injured in the incident.

Arafat told CNN he was personally involved in efforts to free Ali, 42, an Israeli Arab who has worked for CNN for the past two years.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei had called the abduction a "shock," and called for Ali's immediate release.

Palestinian militant groups had condemned the abduction.

"We in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade condemn the kidnapping of the journalist and consider it a mistaken effort that harms the Palestinian cause on all levels," the group said in a statement. "We call for his immediate release."

The abduction "damages the reputation of the Palestinian people and their glorious intifada," said Islamic Jihad spokesman Abdallah Al-Shami.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, "We emphasize that this ugly incident is a violation of the sanctity of journalism and contradicts the morals of the Palestinian people."

Ali's family, who live in the village of Meghar in northern Israel, issued a statement Tuesday appealing to Ali's abductors to free him.

"The family appeals to the conscience of the kidnappers to release him immediately and return him to his family," said the statement issued on behalf of Ali's wife, Samia, and three children. "Riad has never harmed a soul. He always made sure that the voice of the Palestinians was heard in an objective and true manner. We appeal to all those who have a conscience to help bring about Riad's release and not to spare any effort in doing so."

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